I’ve more or less tuned out of impeachment stuff for my own mental well-being. My congressmen already agree with me and I can’t affect the outcome.

I sometimes feel the real generation gap is people who were in middle school and below when Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z hit and people who were in high school and above.

The Mandalorian, season two.

INT. A WORKSHOP ON KIJIMI

Mando drops what remains of IG-11 onto a table.

MANDO Do what you can. He means a lot to me. To us.

MAMU FRICK We do our best.

Mamu looks down at her son, Baby Babu Frick.

Reading J.W. Rinzler’s The Making I’d Return of the Jedi, this bit answers a question I’ve always had: Why is Boba Fett so inconsequential? A: The sequence just wasn’t working so that’s how it came out. Barring writing him a bigger scene, that makes sense.

A less saavy show than Watchmen wouldn’t have known to make the Jeremy Irons scenes a farce. It’d have been all dour and one-note throughout.

Lego has a forthcoming AT-ST Walker set. You get Mando and Cara Dune. The question is, what set will include Baby Yoda? An expensive Razor Crest? A smaller set with IG-11 based around the assault in episode one?

A plot hole is a logical problem in the story’s narrative. It’s when something impossible or inconsistent happens that isn’t explained. It’s a fact, not an opinion. A character acting illogically or inconsistently is usually not a plot hole, just bad writing.

My pitch for a Disney+ Star Wars series: It’s a cooking competition show set at Jabba’s Palace during Return of the Jedi. Max Rebo is the house band. Threepio fussily keeps time. Artoo carries out the plated food. Losers drop through the trap door.

How to Batuu

A Spoiler-Free Account of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and Some Tips for Travellers to Black Spire Outpost

My in-laws live in Florida, so we decided to take a day when we were down visiting them to do Disney’s new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge area of Hollywood Studios. In short, it’s everything you might want from a Star Wars theme park experience. It’s immersive and fun and every detail has been thought through and implemented impeccably. If you have a chance to go, especially if you’re bringing a 7- and 10-year-old wearing Rey costumes, do.

Here are a bunch of thoughts on how the experience works that might be useful if you’re planning to go. I won’t describe much of the actual rides or events because there are story elements that I think work well if you’re surprised.

Short Version

  • Having everyone in your party sign up for a boarding group increases your chances of someone being able to log in faster.
  • If you’re having connection problems getting into a Rise of the Resistance boarding group, find a cast member with an iPad to do it for you. Maybe even try to find one before 7:00 so you’re ready.
  • Make reservations ahead of time for Droid Depot, Savi’s Workshop, and Oga’s Cantina if you want to do them.
  • Eat all the food.
  • Go back at night to see how it’s all lit up.

Motion Sickness

I didn’t get motion sick on either ride. Universal’s Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride (the Hogwarts one) made me feel very nauseated to the point where I was closing my eyes during it and felt out-of-sorts for over an hour afterward. It’s possible if you’re even more sensitive than I that Smuggler’s Run might get to you, but I think you’ll probably be fine. If you’re very worried, there’s an easy solution: be the gunner or engineer and you won’t be sitting up front by the cockpit’s front window (view screen). Another guest will certainly be happy to trade for a pilot’s card. But again, I was the pilot and didn’t feel sick.

Ride Scariness

My 7-year-old is very sensitive and got a little nervous during Ride of the Resistance but once the ride was over she was literally jumping for joy and thanking us for pushing her to come along. It has one small drop near the end that I’d rate as equal to or less than the one in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Smuggler’s Run

There are two proper rides in Galaxy’s Edge: Rise of the Resistance (the newer one, open now at Disney World and opening soon at Disneyland) and Smuggler’s Run. To ride Smuggler’s Run, you get in line and you wait. There is a single rider’s line that reportedly takes 30–45 minutes. If you are in a group that wants to ride together, you get in the regular line. We queued at 9:30 and were out of the ride at 1:00. It was a long wait. When we started the end of the line was all the way back to the entrance of the Toy Story area. Great ride. Long wait. Not much you can do to about it. We all sort of agreed it was worth it.

Once the line eventually gets into the actual spaceport, you can use the Disney Play app to pass the time. There are little mini-games to do at different points along the queue. It’s really neat. If you use it heavily you might drain your battery by the end to the day. Taking along an extra pack or finding a charging station in the park might not be a bad idea.

There’s a bonus scene in an asteroid field you only get sometimes. My understanding is that it only plays if the ride system needs extra time to let the previous group disembark.

If you pay attention when you’re taking off/landing, you’ll notice that the Black Spire Outpost you see out the windows matches the real park. You can see Docking Bay 7, the marketplace, etc. And of course at night, it’s night. (This applies to Rise of the Resistance as well.)

Rise of the Resistance and Boarding Groups

(We went on January 2nd. This info might change as Disney hones the process and the rides stop being over capacity.)

The Galaxy’s Edge area is sort of a triangle. With the Smuggler’s Run queue snaking across two of its three sides, there’s no room for guests to line up for Rise of the Resistance. So, Disney has implemented a virtual queue system called boarding groups. Using the My Disney Experience app (or with the help of a park employee, called “cast members” by Disney), you sign up and are assigned a group number. They call 5–10 or so groups at a time via a board outside the ride and in the app. When your group comes up you have two hours to arrive at the ride, which gives you plenty of time to finish whatever you were doing.

When the ride opened last month, the app would let you join a group as soon as you activated your ticket for the day. People were lining up outside the park at 4:00 AM or earlier so they could be the first ones through the gates and get into an early group. Disney didn’t like that, so now boarding group signup starts at 7:00 AM for everyone.

The first shuttle from our hotel departed at 6:00 AM. We arrived at the park by 6:15 and not long after they started letting guests through the gates into the front area of the park. I can’t really judge how many people were there, but they easily numbered in the thousands, all trying to load the app at exactly 7:00 and join a boarding group. So naturally when I went in, Disney’s wi-fi was overloaded and AT&T wasn’t doing much better. At 7:04 we found a cast member who used an iPad to put us into board group 135. The app told us groups 128 and above would only be called if time permitted. Four minutes and we were already in danger of not getting to ride the new ride. (Turned out we were fine. 135 was called around 6:30 that evening. If the ride had broken down for a duration, we’d have been out of luck.) I’ve read on some days they get to 200 before closing.

So, a piece of advice: while you’re in the crowd waiting for 7:00 AM to strike, try to locate a cast member. I think they wear blue polo shirts. If you can’t get the app to work, have them put you in.

Everyone in your party is able to enroll your group. Ahead of time, have everyone sign into the app and make sure they see everyone else (and add them if not). This way you can all be trying to sign in together. (You can also make friends with people you’re waiting with and add them, but then you have to meet up with them later to actually ride.)

Also: When your boarding party is ready, you still have to wait in the line’s normal queue. It’s a well-done line experience with lots to look at and stuff to do in the app, but you’ll likely have 30–45 more minutes to wait.

On the whole I think the boarding group system is fine. There’s just no way to grapple with a situation where demand is so much greater than supply. More or less if you aren’t in the park at 7:00, you don’t get to ride. (You can get your group assignment and then leave the park, though, but your entire party needs to be physically present to enroll.) This sort of virtual queue means you can enjoy the rest of the park while you wait, and the two-hour window means you won’t have to change many of your plans once you’re called. You can finish your dinner, go to a show you’d already planned to see, and so on. Long term I’d like to see them handle it more like a FastPass where you can schedule your Rise ride ahead of time, but I think this is just what people will have to deal with for now.

The ride, once you get through, is incredible. I can’t believe some of the stuff in it.

Be a Batuu Native

Galaxy’s Edge is set in a town called Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu. This is an entirely new Star Wars location created just for the park. It appeared first on the Star Tours ride and is the setting of the Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire novel and comic mini-series as well as the young adult novel A Crash of Fate. I sort of actively avoid non-movie and TV Star Wars tie-ins, but my curiosity led me to these. You’d can skip any of them, but I’d say Delilah Dawson’s Black Spire is the one to read. It outlines the storyline of the settlement leading up to the “present day” of the park, which is probably best pinned at during before/during Rise of Skywalker. Black Spire also introduces Resistance spy Vi Moradi, who you’ll see around the park occasionally hiding from the Stormtroopers and recruiting kids to help her do missions.

Children are allowed to wear costumes in the park, minus maybe masks. Adults are not supposed to, but they say you can wear universe-appropriate outfits made from real clothes. If you have a cool vest or scarf or something, go for it. They just don’t want you to be mistaken for a character or a cast member. They do sell nice robes and tunics and such if you want to dress like a Tatooine farmer.

Tip: Bring a locale-appropriate bag. A small canvas rucksack or leather messenger bag will look at home on Batuu and be good for holding snacks, water bottles, and whatever you buy in the park. Disney will also send merch back to your hotel for you or ship it home.

Cast members stay fairly consistently in character. They’ll tell you a $5.25 purchase will be “five point two five credits.” You can even “exchange your money” at the Droid Depot for Batuuan Spira (meaning, buy a refillable Disney gift card in the shape of a metal coin), which is fun and I recommend.

Black Spire Outpost has its own lingo, which you can read about here. The main ones to know: “Hello” is “Bright Suns” in the morning and “Rising Moons” in the evening. “Goodbye” is “Good Journey,” “’til the Spires,” or, more formally, “May the Spires Keep You.” You’ll usually get a good reaction from a cast member if you open with a local phrase.

Shops and Things to See

Take time and look through all the shops. Pay attention to all the details everywhere. On the walls, on the ceilings, the foot and droid tracks on the ground. Use the Play app to hack into antennae or make droids move.

As with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, all of the merchandise sold in the park is intended to be in-universe gear. There are no shirts that say “Star Wars” on them. Instead, you can get one that says “Black Spire Outpost” with a silhouette of the distinctive rock formations on it in the same way you might go to New York and buy a shirt with the city skyline.

Dok Ondor’s Den of Antiquities had a line out the door when I went by, but the line is only for people who want to buy legacy lightsabers (high end replicas of those carried by Obi-Wan, Luke, etc). This deterred me at first until I asked a cast member. If you want to buy something else or just look around, you can go in, and you should. There’s an animatronic Dok in his office overlooking the floor and all sorts of neat things hanging on the walls.

Go back at night if you can. Disney has done an amazing job of hiding the rest of the park from you when you’re in the Galaxy’s Edge area, so you just feel like you’re actually on Batuu in Black Spire Outpost. At night, all those rock formations are lit up.

Droid Depot

There are a few add-on experiences you can do in the area. All will cost you money, of course. If you’re splurging, they’re well worth it.

You can make a reservation to build a droid online. The line to build one for people who didn’t have reservations was 80 minutes. With a reservation, we just walked right in. I recommend doing this one early in the day so you have your little droid buddy as a companion for the rest of the day if you’re buying the backpack (see below). Otherwise, do it later so you don’t have to carry it around (or send it to your room).

You can make either an R-series or a BB-series astromech. They have the parts to make replicas of R2-D2 and BB-8, but they also just sell pre-made versions of those characters for cheaper, so try to have some fun and make something with your own color scheme. Here are the different color options for R-series droids and here are the BB-series ones. It might help to look them over and think about it, but when you get there you have time to pick each one up and try out different variations and combinations. Here are two sites with good photos of the process and the store: one, two.

If you get an R-series droid you can also buy replacement color panels and decals for it along with blasters or rockets that light up and make sounds, tools (that don’t), and even a drink-serving tray (though to scale they’re smaller than shot glasses). The BBs don’t have any add-ons aside from the optional personality chip.

The droids themselves are very fun. I’d seen some complaints online about the BB droids being hard to control or their heads wobbling too much or falling off too often, but we found ours to be totally fine. BB Tip: When you put the head on, press the red button to have it rotate all the way around a few times. This will help make sure it catches all its magnets.

There’s a droid playground outside of the shop where you can practice with your new droid. It’s like an adorable dog park, but for kids crashing their droids into one-another. We also found it helped to get a little dirt on our BB to make her look more worn. The R-series droids, though, look a bit new a plastic-y to me. I’ve seen people online use acrylic washes to give them more weathering. Outside of the play area, Disney wants you to leave your droid in its box/bag so you don’t trip people.

We did not buy a little backpack Droid Baby Björn, but I think I’d recommend it. Thety’re $40, but when it’s over you have a little backpack with a cool logo on it you can use in the real world, so it’s not a totally useless single-serving purchase. The reason I say this is that as you walk around the park, your droid will sometimes react to your surroundings, or want to chirp at another droid. The reactions are even different based on whether you bought a $15 personality chip for your little guy. You can get a First Order chip, for example, that gives it a new sort of wicked voice. Then if it sees a Stormtrooper it might get excited, or it might sound unhappy when you’re near Resistance stuff. The droid comes in a neat box but having it strapped to your chest in the backpack means you really get to notice all the little interactions.

Savi’s Workshop

I’m not sure there’s a standby line for this, or how reliable it is. If you want to build your own lightsaber, you should make an appointment. When I first bought my tickets, it was all booked, but after reloading the page several times a day, one opened up, so if this happens to you, don’t lose heart! People change their plans and adjust their schedules all the time. Keep checking and I think there’s a good chance a slot will open up.

There are four types of lightsabers you can build: Peace and Justice, Protection and Defense, Elemental Nature, and Power and Control. Each family of saber has 96 variations, so in total there are 384 different possible lightsabers that can be made. You pick a saber category and then from its tray get to choose one of two emitters, two of four hilt bodies, one of two switches and one of two end caps. You also get to pick a crystal color which determines your saber’s color: blue, green, red, or purple. In Dok Ondor’s they also sell white, yellow, and maybe orange. This post has photos of all the “scrap” pieces you get to choose from, but if you don’t want the building experience spoiled, try to skim it. You could go in blind and just let the Force guide you. In the end you can have a badass looking Sith saber, something that looks like an ancient artifact, one that looks like it’s made out of old camera flashes, or even a samurai sword hilt with leather wraps and wood. It’s all super cool and the hilt pieces are metal so the finished product has a nice weight to it.

The will also happily offer to sell you a display stand for your hilt and a neat belt clip. You get a complimentary case with a strap to carry your new lightsaber around the park. The blade comes out so you can also clip your hilt to your belt around wear it around. All the sabers have either a d-ring to clip onto or a little wheel you slide onto the belt attachment.

Oga’s Cantina

This is the local bar. Again, make a reservation. They do have a standby line but when we went in for our 4:25 reservation they were telling people outside they were booked for the night.

You can bring in kids but there’s a good chance you’ll be standing at the bar. Very little kids won’t be able to see much and might be tired.

They have alcohol and non-acolholic drinks as well as a fun Jell-O-like dessert called “Oga Obsession” that has Poprocks-like things on it. If you have a non-drinker or kid with you, definitely have someone order the Carbon Freeze. It has dry ice in a special chamber at the bottom of the cup and poppers inside that jump around and fizz and it’s a lot of fun to look at and drink.

Eat All the Food

Disney’s app lets you make mobile orders a few hours before you’re ready to eat. (Like, when you’re waiting in line for a ride.) Then, when you’re actually at the restaurant, you just tap a button saying “I’m here” and they plate your food, letting you skip the ordering line. We never waited more than 5 minutes from the time we hit the button to when we had our orders.

The breakfast Ronto wrap was very good, as was the Tatooine Sunset, which was like a citrusy iced tea. Blue and Green milk taste like fruit smoothies. They were different but I’m not sure I preferred one to the other. Think of them sort of like if one’s Hawaiian Punch, the other is Tropical Punch, or something. Matt Singer’s article on the food is a good place to start to read more.

At Docking Bay 7, the main eatery, we had the Smoked Kaadu Ribs and the Fried Endorian Tip-Yip, as well as both desserts. Everything was delicious. There’s outdoor seating you night not notice immediately if the inside is full, but we found a table right away even on a tremendously crowded day.

Non-Galaxy’s Edge Star Wars Stuff

We didn’t have time to do Star Tours. I’d have liked to, but there wasn’t time and I was slightly worried about the motion sickness issue on that ride.

If you have kids under 12 with you, sign up for the Jedi training experience. You have to get a time slot once you’re in the park on the day. The signup area is to the left of the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. I recommend enrolling first thing so they don’t fill up. I think doing the Jedi training actually helped give my 7-year-old a boost of confidence going into the Rise of the Resistance ride. She was a little worried it would be scary but after facing the Dark Side in her training she was psyched up.

Closing Thoughts

I’ve been sort of up-and-down with Star Wars lately. Rise of Skywalker had things I liked about it and things I ddn’t and more things I wish it were instead. The Mandalorian was fantastic. Baby Yoda single-two-fingered-handedly got my younger daughter into the universe. The decision to make Galaxy’s Edge its own, brand new world, means that there’s nothing predetermined for your experience. What’s in there is only what you take with you. What you leave with is just fun, good memories, and very tired feet.

I’ve collected a bunch of links about Galaxy’s Edge here and photos of lightsabers people have built here. (You can’t really build a bad-looking saber. It’s an amazing design achievement that all the parts work harmoniously.)

I was going to write a whole thing about Rise of Skywalker, but basically, it’s fine. Not a great movie, but enjoyable. I like the sequel trilogy characters a good deal but ultimately, as I wrote before it came out, I don’t think J.J. Abrams was very interested in continuing the larger story. Now, after it’s all over I still want to know what happens after Return of the Jedi. The status quo is right where we left it in 1983. The Empire/First Order is destroyed, Palpatine is dead, and there’s a (new) New Republic to build and new Jedi to train.

Aside: If I had to bet, I’d place money on history being much kinder to The Last Jedi than the other two movies in the trilogy.

I could write a good bit about Rise of Skywalker’s problems and propose ways to clean it up. Why create Jannah and then give her nothing to do? But the larger issue is that the trilogy just isn’t about anything—there was very clearly no big plan—and you can’t script doctor that away.* So, instead, I thought it might be interesting to look at what George Lucas had originally intended for the sequel trilogy to be about.

In The Secret History of Star Wars, Michael Kaminski devotes an entire appendix entry to the sequel trilogy, pulling together what Lucas has said about the story over the years. There isn’t much. Reading between the lines, I’m pretty convinced he had a good deal in mind for Luke’s story but wound up telling most of that in the first three movies. I recommend Kaminski’s book for the full exploration, but here are a few of the essentials.

Depending on when Lucas is quoted, Luke is either the central figure of the story or, as Hamill says he was told when filming the first movie, “You’ll just be like a cameo. You’ll be like Obi-Wan handing the lightsaber down to the next new hope.”

Lucas says in a few places that the sequels about be about “the rebuilding of the Republic,” He says: “The final three movies feature an adult Luke and the final confrontation between the rebels and the Empire.” This implies the next trilogy would be a direct sequel to Return of the Jedi, with the Empire still around. But in many other places he talks about each trilogy being separated by 20+ years. Point being, he really didn’t have this nailed down, then he burnt out making Return of the Jedi and sort of just let the story be over with the defeat of the Emperor.

He did have a bit to say about the themes, which I think could have pointed the way for where the stories might have gone. He says they will be about “the necessity for moral choices and the wisdom needed to distinguish right from wrong.” In 1983 he said:

In the sequel Luke would be a sixty-year-old Jedi knight. Han Solo and Leia would be together, although Lucas says, “They might be married, or not. We have never actually discussed marriage in this galaxy. I don’t know if it exists yet. Who knows what relationship they will have? I mean, they’re together, let’s put it what way.” The sequel focuses mainly on Luke, and Lucas says Mark Hamill will have first crack at the part if he is old enough. “If the first trilogy is social and political and talks about how society evolves,” Lucas says, ”Star Wars is more about personal growth and self-realization, and the third deal with moral and philosophical problems. In Star Wars, there is a very clear line drawn between good and evil. Eventually you have to face the fact that good and evil aren’t that clear-cut and the real issue is trying to understand the different. The sequel is about Jedi knighthood, justice, confrontation, and passing on what you have learned.”

Putting that all together, we clearly see he moved back and forth on how to handle the idea of so many movies. Assuming you’re committed to a trilogy of trilogies, you can sort of break the possible approaches up in a few ways:

  1. A prequel trilogy plus a hexology following Luke. He defeats Vader in 6 and then goes out to train a new Jedi in 7–9 to defeat either the Emperor or a new villain.
  2. A prequel trilogy centering on Obi-Wan, the original trilogy with Obi-Wan as mentor handing off to Luke, a sequel trilogy with Luke as Mentor handing off to a new Jedi.
  3. An ennealogy about the Emperor.

It seems like J.J. Abrams started off making 2) before deciding to make 3). You’d have to work pretty hard to convince me that the plan all along was for the Emperor to be behind everything. It’s a sensible idea, but there’s nothing at all in Return of the Jedi to suggest that he’s not dead. From everything I’ve read about Star Wars (and it’s a lot), I’m absolutely convinced that by the time he finished Return of the Jedi, Lucas intended for the story to be over. Any new sequel would have to find its own story.

Indeed, from the very little we know, Lucas’s plans for subsequent movies were entirely apart from the Skywalker saga. This goes back to the very beginning, when he planned for what became Star Wars to be just one story—an excerpt—from the “Journal of the Whills.” The Lord of the Rings to the Journal’s Silmarillion. He has an idea of what The Force really is:

The Force breaks into two sides: the living Force and a greater, cosmic Force. The living Force makes you sensitive to other living things, makes you intuitive, and allows you to read other people’s minds, et cetera. But the greater Force has to do with destiny. In working with the Force, you can find your destiny and you can choose to either follow it, or not.

He apparently wrote down a sketch of what his next idea was, which he handed off to Disney. What we know of it comes from this quote:

GL: [The next three Star Wars films] were going to get into a macrobiotic world. But there’s this world of creatures that operate differently than we do. I call them the Whills. And the Whills are the ones who actually control the universe. They feed off the Force.

If I’d held onto the company I could have done it, and then it would have been done. Of course, a lot of fans would have hated it, just like they did Phantom Menace and everything, but at least the whole story from beginning to end would be told.

And:

“The Whills,” Lucas explained, “are the ones who actually control the universe. They feed off the Force.” Lifeforms, meanwhile, be they Jedi or Sith, or bounty hunters or mechanics, are simply “vehicles for the Whills to travel around in. … And the conduit is the midi-chlorians. The midi-chlorians are the ones that communicate with the Whills. The Whills, in a general sense, they are the Force.”

Now, it’s easy to dismiss this as silly, but this is just backstory, not story. Ignore the sequels they actually made, and imagine if instead the Wachowskis, before The Matrix, had made a movie about Neo as a superhero, and it was beloved. Then they said they wanted to make a movie about where Neo’s powers came from. He’s really a computer program and the whole world is virtual reality. We know that movie is great, but there’s a world where it sounds really stupid. My point is, this is the sort of stuff that feeds the post-prequels George Lucas hate, but remember how improbable the success of Star Wars was. Even Harrison Ford and Alec Guinness seemed to think they were just making another in a long line of schlocky 1970s sci-fi movies that would be forgotten by year’s end. It just happened that Lucas had a great vision and hired the right collaborators that this silly space fairy tale turned out to be one of the century’s great epics.

We’re still left with the question of where it goes from here. It seems like Lucas never knew, Abrams punted, and the currently-announced series all take place in the past. I guess whatever plan the Whills have, we’ll have to wait a bit longer.


* A quick stab at it, anyway: keep the idea of Luke as mentor to a new Jedi (Rey). Keep the idea of Ben Solo as a fallen Jedi trainee, and Luke as his failed former teacher just like Ben/Anakin. But actually spend time showing the First Order rising. Show us why the people want to take the easy path. Draw from the difficulties of post-Civil War reconstruction in America, from how WWI led to WWII, how demagogues rise, how Neo-Nazis still exist, and so on. Abstract it all, obviously, but use it to show how Leia isn’t able to just pick up the pieces. No big villain pulling the strings. Just Ben in way over his head, ultimately realizing he’s created a monster in the First Order and its zealots and joining up with the new Jedi to end it. 

The Mandalorian is set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, the upcoming Obi-Wan and Cassian Andor shows come before Star Wars, a new season of The Clone Wars even earlier, and Resistance during the sequel trilogy. Rian Johnson is developing new movies but to my knowledge nothing has been said of their setting. 

I like that Star Wars has basically found two different ways to make westerns not boring: 1) the original: mash it up with enough other genres and just keep the cool gunslinger parts and not the interminable pacing, 2) The Mandalorian: keep it to a TV runtime.

At some point I realized memes are like political cartoons. Rarely funny, insightful, or creative; odd need to label things that would be clear with better execution; meaningful to a generation with little need nor care for my opinion (probably rightly).