Thursday, May 11, 2023

Commentary: A Whole Case of Trouble

This is commentary for “A Whole Case of Trouble.

This is the first story I wrote when I decided to dip my toes into the ROTJ fanfiction pool. It’s the only one featuring a main player in the Star Wars universe as the POV character. Some of the other stories mention characters like Darth Vader, Han Solo, Luke, and Leia, but they primarily focus on side characters.

This filename for this one is simply “Lando story.” It’s one of two in which the filename doesn’t match the final title; “The Fall of Palpatine” was originally titled “As I Have Foreseen It.”

In my version of events, Lando has been embedded as a guard in Jabba’s Palace for a few months. I make no real determination of a timeline here, and again, I’m sure this conflicts with newly released canonical material in one way or another.

I like the idea of Boba Fett knowing Lando was disguised as a guard and doing absolutely nothing about it. He’s more interested in collecting credits from Jabba and waiting to see what happens when Solo’s friends inevitably try to rescue him, which is infinitely more fun than simply turning him in.

Plus, as Lando tells us, the overconfident Fett would likely get a much higher bounty for the whole Rebellion Collectors Set. Reminder: the “galaxy’s greatest bounty hunter” is defeated by a man who can’t see.

Yes, Lando, there are rookie Jedi. They’re called “padawans,” although we didn’t find this out until 1999, 16 years after Return of the Jedi came out.

Lando assumed the identity of Tamtel Skreej while masquerading as one of Jabba’s guards. There’s not a ton of material surrounding this character.

I distinctly remember a Quarren being featured on the card art for Luke Skywalker’s ROTJ action figure. Is Oz the same guy? It doesn’t matter all that much. The implication in the story is that Oz is serving Jabba as part of some indentured servitude arrangement. He wants to get out.

“Some poor spacer who dumped a shipment of spice during a delivery” could also describe Han Solo, who later becomes a “coffee table” at Jabba’s Palace.

Lando digs the spacer's jacket. For a man who appreciates high fashion and the finer things in life, living for a few months at Jabba’s grimy, dingy palace among Jabba’s grimy, dingy minions is rough.

Who was Jabba’s last protocol droid? How long had the Hutt been without one? Those questions went unanswered for years, although a one-shot comic gives the droid a name and a background. His name is Eightyem and he ends up accidentally betraying Jabba at the behest of a rogue, leading to his disintegration. At least that’s what the summary I read told me.

I had originally written the part for a blue protocol droid with a female voice. But the comic’s release in late March led me to make a change to line things up with the current canon. I’m not obsessed with aligning these stories with canon, but if I can add a touch here or there, I will.

How many recreational substances is Jabba taking? Imagine how much stuff a creature Jabba’s size and weight had to take to stay high—and how much he’d really have to consume to sustain his drugged-out existence.

I guess I’ve imagined Jabba’s Palace as kind of an opium den.

It’s absurd how awful things are at Jabba’s Palace. Lando shares the story of another rogue who ran afoul of the Hutt and paid back his debt, only for Jabba’s minions to kill him because they liked his boots. He wonders if the stylish spacer will suffer a similar fate.

I use three asterisks (***) to denote a section break in manuscripts. My ROTJ stories use the Imperial logo or Rebel Alliance symbol, depending on the affiliation of the narrator. For “A Whole Case of Trouble,” I used Colt 45 cans. I’ll get to that in a bit.

This section opens with Lando reflecting on the betrayal at Bespin. I know people get angry at Lando for betraying Han, and I understand that, but there were millions of people in Cloud City. When the Empire showed up unannounced, he didn’t have much choice. I think, in the back of his mind, he always thought he’d figure out how to talk his way out of it. But there’s no talking your way out of it when Vader’s involved.

Vader would indeed know “all too well when a gambler was bluffing.”

Can you imagine ever getting a good night’s sleep after encountering Darth Freaking Vader? Wouldn’t you constantly feel like you were short of breath—that an invisible hand was squeezing your throat?

“He’s so spiced up, he thinks the Galactic Senate’s still in session” went through a few different iterations to note the passage of time in the Star Wars universe.

  • “He’s so spiced up, he thinks Valorum’s still chancellor.”
  • “He’s so spiced up, he thinks Alderaan’s still running tours.”
  • “He’s so spiced up, he thinks Tarkin’s still a grand moff.”
  • “He’s so spiced up, he thinks the Republic’s still in charge.”

Some of them felt a little too forced or specific coming from a common spacer. I finally settled on the Galactic Senate one. 

Given the vigor with which bounty hunters pursued Han Solo, the spacer’s probably right about her inability to simply disappear.

Twinburst Ale is supposed to be a pricey liquor in the Star Wars universe catering to high-class customers with expensive taste. Lando liked the stuff so much that he bought a stake in the company. In recent months, the Empire banned the ale and branded Lando a traitor. The Empire claims it destroyed every bottle, but given the vastness of the universe, it feels like a few cases slipped through the cracks.

The spacer plans to extort Lando for the credits she needs to pay off Jabba.

How did she know Lando’s identity? I left this ambiguous in earlier versions of the story. She recognized something about Lando when meeting him in the palace. That’s fine. It works.

But while reading through the story again, I thought maybe something needed to trigger that recognition. I added an interaction and a few lines of dialogue, with the key phrase being “works every time.”

His use of the phrase made her recall an ad for Twinburst Ale in which Lando uttered the same words. A little on the nose, perhaps, but I felt like the story needed something here.

Just imagine Baron Administrator Lando Calrissian, replete in one of his many dashing outfits, hanging out with some beautiful women in Cloud City to advertise an alcoholic beverage. Class, sophistication, it’s the Lando Calrissian—and Billy Dee Williams—way.

The whole idea for the ale, and the commercial, stemmed from the famous Colt 45 ads featuring one Billy Dee Williams, who often said “works every time.” It’s also the reason for the unique section breaks in this story.

We next go to a scene featuring Lando and Oz, who are playing what is essentially Star Wars Racer in what passes as the lounge area. I initially made this a skiff racing game before changing it to podracing instead. Given the Boonta Eve Classic and all that, there’s no harm in a prequel reference. Plus, I’m not sure how fast those skiffs from Return of the Jedi actually go. Pods look like they’re a lot faster.

Another prequel reference: Geonosis. I don’t recall a podracing level being set there, but the catacombs and such would make for some interesting scenery.

Poodoo. Indeed.

I have no memory of Quarren drinking beer, but they’d have their own mass-market brand, right, kind of like the Bud Light of Quarren? Nice of Lando to hand his friend one of them, even if it “smelled like a sea breeze carried on winds near a noxious factory.”

And here’s another complication for Lando: one of Jabba’s guards, Gronko, runs a customs scam. Having gotten aboard the spacer’s ship, he’s seen the Twinburst Ale and knows selling it could be lucrative. This really puts Lando in a bind. As he notes, if Gronko steals the ale, the spacer can’t sell it to Lando and she’ll likely make her only remaining play by giving Lando up.

A quick aside here on the Han Solo rescue. What was the plan, exactly? Obviously, it’s important for Han’s friends to infiltrate the palace. Luke gives Artoo his lightsaber as his ace in the hole. Lando’s on standby to keep an eye on things. Leia and Chewie get there to break Han out. Luke, I guess, is there as a Plan B. When he’s unable to bargain with Jabba, what did he plan to do?

Surely, the plan didn’t call for Luke to land in the rancor pit or for Jabba to throw some of the group into the Sarlacc pit just so Luke could get his lightsaber and save everyone.

My view is that Leia and Chewie were the first phase of the rescue and Luke was the backup plan. Everything that happens after Luke shows up is improvisation. It all works out—just try not to think too hard about it.

The tasteful spacer has an awesome Nubian freighter. Goodness, a lot of prequel stuff in this story. Didn’t realize it until this commentary.

Stang! One of my all-time favorite made-up curse words. I remember this from some Star Wars comics and novels. Couldn’t resist using it here. For a college project, I once portrayed a sportscaster named “Stang Kittridge” for a segment on Star Wars sports, which included events like tauntaun racing and the Endor Olympics.

Observant readers would probably see where this was going when Lando mentioned Gronko was a Clawdite, a shapeshifting species first seen in Attack of the Clones (again with the prequels!). Gronko posed as the spacer to fool her copilot in a bid to steal the Twinburst Ale.

Then, Lando and the spacer turn the tables on Gronko, with the spacer announcing herself as customs. Gronko doesn’t last long; serves him right for stealing the jacket.

By the way, the spacer was jobbing Lando the whole time. He’s a little off his game after the whole Bespin thing. She planned to take Lando’s credits and keep the ale the whole time.

The “my fence seems confident” line is a reference to Ocean’s Eleven. The spacer isn’t moving Incan matrimonial headmasks, however.

“Yours, Tendra.” The stylish spacer is Tendra Risant. In Legends continuity, she and Lando get married. She’s been erased in the new canon. I’ve restored her in my version of Star Wars continuity, although the two meet under significantly different circumstances than they do in the novels. It’s really just meant to be a fun Easter egg for fans who may have remembered the character.

Lando really is a softy, giving that bottle of Twinburst Ale to Oz so he can finally get off-world. Good dude, that Lando.

We come back to Fett at the end of the story. This time, Lando acknowledges the bounty hunter by raising his glass. He knows the droids will soon arrive and they’ll finally have a chance to save Han.