Friday, September 29, 2023

[Ahsoka] Dave Filoni, PLEASE hire a consultant who understands small-unit tactics

 SPOILERS ahead for the ongoing STAR WARS: AHSOKA show on Disney+. 

We've been keeping up weekly with the Ahsoka TV show. I was apprehensive at first; we aren't really fond of the Rebels characters, and although we had fun watching The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, we also felt like these recent offerings could get lackluster at times. (On the other hand, I regard Andor as an absolute masterpiece). 

However, I've been pleasantly surprised on the whole by Ahsoka. There are bits and pieces I don't like, but I've found the storyline engaging and the characters often enjoyable. Like everyone else on the internet, apparently, I'm enjoying the late Ray Stevenson's Baylan Skoll character a lot. I've enjoyed the move to "a galaxy far, far away, but a different galaxy." And I was excited to see what they'd do with Grand Admiral Thrawn. 

And so we come to the substance of today's complaint. It's just a nitpick, I suppose, but it's the kind of illusion-shattering nitpick that really dampened my enjoyment of the last episode (whereas the episode before that was great). 

So. You know how Thrawn's whole shtick is that he's this mad tactical genius? And his too-busy-to-clean-their-armor, hardened "night troopers" have apparently done nothing for YEARS except run ops for their tac-savvy boss?

Filoni, you can't just tell us that. Here, you really do have to show it. And doing so would be almost comically easy, given how the Star Wars franchise has usually handled Storm Troopers. Given how much money has obviously been poured into making this show, given the fact that the lightsaber fights have been stage-choreographed (how well is a contentious matter, of course), I have no doubt that Disney's budget could have included one afternoon with an infantry veteran consultant. Just one afternoon. 

When Thrawn's troops disembark from their landing craft to back up Shin Hati against the three Jedi/former Jedi/wannabe Jedi heroes, the Grand Admiral issues a tactical formation command to partially encircle the foe. Ok, good, they've got standard operating procedures (though I can't remember whether they partially or fully surround the good guys; fully surrounding them in a firefight would be a really bad idea, as it just invites friendly fire. 

But when Thrawn issues the order to fall back ... all these tacticool troopers just ... turn around en masse and run directly back to their transports like kids on a field trip who've just realized the bus is actually, finally about to roll away from the water park. 

Fire and movement. Bounding overwatch. Voice-coordinated maneuvers, in which one team faces the enemy and keeps up suppressing fire while the other team falls back to the next piece of cover. Then, still coordinating with voice signals, the teams switch roles. So every storm trooper gets back safely to the nice warm transport, but somebody is always pointing a blaster at the enemy, until they're safely back in the transport (and maybe even longer). Frankly, the trooper extras wouldn't even have to perform these maneuvers particularly well; just making some visible effort to move tactically would make them stand out (which is kind of sad). 

Here's the thing: when you write fiction, making the villains idiots makes the heroes' efforts fall flat. When you make the villains compelling professionals, and then come up with some way the heroes' desperate resistance could work anyway ... well, now we're talking. 

This is just a silly gripe, of course. And I know that Storm Troopers' functional incompetence is almost a cliche in Star Wars. But it is astonishing to me that so many Star Wars shows of late have asked us to take this group of combatants more seriously ... but then they hamstring that entire effect by not making the slightest effort to make them behave like they've at least been through boot camp. 

Rant over. Cheers. 


  1. Replies
    1. Well, *sure*, Dwiz - but does it kill you with tactical sophistication?

      Can't a nerd just demand some verisimilitude in an epic about people with tentacles on their heads using invisible force powers to fight space fascists after acting as a dental applique for space whales en route to another galaxy? C'mon, it's not like I'm asking for a lot!!!!


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