Did you think the Clone Wars were over? Think again.
Star Wars: Dark Disciple, a novel adapted from eight unfinished episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and written by veteran Star Wars scribe Christie Golden (Fate of the Jedi: Omen, Allies, and Ascension), was released last week. And it’s excellent. But first, let’s talk about how we got here.
There were many great characters in The Clone Wars, but for my money, the best to come out of the series is Asajj Ventress. She was not an original creation of The Clone Wars, but the writers, directors, and animators of the series — along with the tremendous actress Nika Futterman — gave a performance and personality to Asajj that makes her the highlight of almost every scene she was in. Sure, Asajj may have been the bad gal, she may have done things that would make even Grand Moff Tarkin blush, but she oozed charisma and it was hard not to root for a character who’s wit was as cutting as her twin lightsabers. As The Clone Wars series and the character of Asajj evolved, we saw the show get darker in tone and Asajj more and more nuanced. Unfortunately, as the series wrapped up its television run at the end of Season Five and the subsequent release of The Lost Missions episodes, we were left with a feeling that Asajj’s story arc was not satisfactorily resolved. In an open letter to fans, supervising director Dave Filoni revealed his own personal sketches that hinted at what was planned, and it was very exciting.
Thanks to the Lucasfilm Story Group, however, Asajj’s story (and others) would continue. Enter Dark Disciple.
Plans for Dark Disciple (based on the unfinished episodes “Lethal Alliance,” “The Mission,” “Conspirators,” “Dark Disciple,” “Saving Vos Parts I and II,” “Traitor,” and “The Path,” written by Katie Lucas, Matt Michnovetz, and Filoni), were first revealed at Del Rey’s San Diego Comic-Con panel last year. The promotional artwork shown for the novel elicited an audible gasp — the longtime-hairless Ventress now sported some locks — and a very enthusiastic reaction to the news. StarWars.com then produced a mini-documentary, The Clone Wars Legacy, which detailed new projects stemming from unfinished episodes of the series, and gave us more insight into Dark Disciple.
A year later, having read the novel, I can say that the reaction I saw at the Del Rey panel was well deserved. Dark Disciple captures the darkness, danger, and allure of its main characters in a way that makes it a hard book to put down.
Dark Disciple is set late in the Clone Wars; both military and civilian losses are mounting as Count Dooku uses more and more brutal tactics to defeat the Republic. The story focuses on the Jedi’s desperate mission to once and for all eliminate Dooku; but they do not feel that they can accomplish this mission on their own, and solicit the aid of Dooku’s one time apprentice, Asajj Ventress. Chosen to assist Ventress by the Jedi Council is the unconventional Jedi, Quinlan Vos. While the shroud of the dark side clouds everything during the Clone Wars, Vos is forced to submerge himself in the darkness through his partnership with Ventress. Whether his choices consume both Ventress and himself is the central question that pushes Dark Disciple to its dramatic conclusion.
While Golden crafts a thrilling and compelling narrative, to truly appreciate full depth of the story you need to understand the journey that the characters took to reach this point. For Asajj specifically, having survived countless reversals of fortune, betrayals, and defeats, the stakes of getting involved in the Jedi plot against Count Dooku are exceedingly high. To that end, here is a Clone Wars viewing guide to help you understand the key characters, events, and relationships leading into Dark Disciple.
Ventress was a Dark Horse Comics creation, first appearing in 2003’s Jedi: Mace Windu. Her design was based on Sith Lord concept art by Dermot Power for Attack of the Clones. Ventress would go on to be featured heavily in the comics and in Genndy Tartakovsky’s short-form animated series Clone Wars (2003-2005), and made her big screen debut in 2008’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars film, which added her to the official canon.
Separatist and Sith
Episode 116: “Hidden Enemy,” The Clone Wars Movie, Episode 101: “Ambush,” Episode 302: “ARC Troopers,” Episode 109: “Cloak of Darkness”
In these early episodes, we see Ventress as the weapon wielded by the Sith and Separatists against the Jedi and their allies. This is, in many ways, a continuation of her character as she appeared in Legends material, giving us the basics of her character before shaking things up later in the series. Of this phase in Ventress’ life, “ARC Troopers” is the must watch episode. We see her relationship with General Grievous, her sultry deadliness in battle, her failure, and her ability to escape.
Magick and Revenge
Episode 109: “Cloak of Darkness,” Episode 312: “Nightsisters,” Episode 313: “Monster,” Episode 314: “Witches of the Mist,” and Episode 419: “Massacre”
Betrayed by her Master, Count Dooku, in these episodes we see Ventress’ instincts of self-preservation and revenge on full display. She returns to her homeworld Dathomir and seeks the aid of Mother Talzin and her clan of Nightsisters. These episodes also see the introduction of Savage Opress and a really cool and different take on Force-users in the Nightsisters.
A background in the culture of Dathomir and Ventress’ relationship to that culture is important to understanding large portions of Dark Disciple. These episodes are all a must-watch.
Hunting and Helping
Episode 420: “Bounty,” Episode 421: “Brothers,” Episode 422: “Revenge,” Episode 519: “To Catch a Jedi,” and Episode 520: “The Wrong Jedi”
The final group of episodes presents us with a very different Ventress than we have known so far. For the first time, she is not relying on others to construct an identity for her: She is independent and trying to figure out who she is and where she fits in the galaxy. Give her very particular set of skills, she gravitates toward the profession of a bounty hunter, teaming up with the Fett gang on a mission in the episode “Bounty” — that ends up showing there is still some good inside her heart.
“Revenge” provides some of the best Obi-Wan and Ventress banter of the series. We close out Ventress’ time in The Clone Wars series as she becomes an unlikely ally for fugitive Ahsoka Tano in the final two episodes of Season Five, “To Catch a Jedi” and “The Wrong Jedi.”
Vos’ character was inspired by a background extra on Tatooine in The Phantom Menace and, like Ventress, first appeared in April 2000 in Dark Horse Comics’ Star Wars: Republic #17, “Emissaries to Malastare.” Vos was subsequently used extensively by Dark Horse Comics in their Clone Wars-era comics. Vos beat Ventress to the big screen from a certain point of view — as a name drop from Obi-Wan Kenobi in Revenge of the Sith.
Both Ventress and Vos’ comic appearances are now considered part of Legends, but these stories provide a different interpretation of the characters and are very entertaining reads. Some of these issues are now available on Marvel Comics’ digital service, Marvel Unlimited.
Episode 309: “Hunt for Ziro,” Episode 612: “Destiny”
Vos starred in the ninth episode of the show’s third season, “Hunt for Ziro,” and appeared in a Force vision of Yoda’s in the twelfth episode of Season Six, “Destiny.”
In “Hunt for Ziro,” Quinlan Vos is introduced to viewers of the series. Since he has the respect of Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, we immediately buy into the fact that while this character may seem, carefree he is the real deal. During the episode Vos and Kenobi team up to track down the fugitive Ziro the Hutt, facing off with various Hutts and the bounty hunter Cad Bane.
While Vos doesn’t get a ton of screen time in the series, his appearance in the episode does establish some of the swashbuckling and recklessness inherent in his nature, as well as displaying his rather unique Force ability of psychometry. Vos has the ability, through touching physical objects, to have a vision of past events surrounding the individual who had touched that object. As Vos explains in Dark Disciple, “when I hold an object and focus on it, sometimes I can see and hear things that have happened during its history. And sometimes…sometimes I can feel what happened.”
This special Force ability plays a very important role in Dark Disciple and “Hunt for Ziro” is a great chance to see this ability in action on screen.
Dark Disciple is a dramatic and compelling continuation of the character arcs of Ventress and Vos from The Clone Wars animated series. Basing her story on the fates of Ventress and Vos as planned out by Lucas, Michnovetz, and Filoni, Golden is able to use the novel to give the characters and their relationships even more time to develop and room to breath. This gives us an even richer character experience than is usually accomplished in the 22-minute format of The Clone Wars episodes.
Dark Disciple is on sale now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats. Star Wars: The Clone Wars is currently streaming on Netflix and available on Blu-ray and DVD.