For Christmas, I got the boxed set of the first four seasons of "Clone Wars". I had already seen the first three of these on Sky, but never saw the fourth do to a change of channel (coupled with a failure in advertising the same). So, over the past several weeks, I have been gradually watching my way through the series, and reached the end this weekend.
For the most part, "Clone Wars" is an excellent show. Indeed, for the most part it is vastly superior to the prequel trilogy, with the caveat that if the episode synopsis mentions Jar Jar or C-3P0 (or mentions Padme but not one of the Jedi as well), you can be pretty sure that the episode is going to suck. But even that's not too bad, since it's only 22 minutes until the next one.
However, right at the end of season three, and then at the end of season four, they made a massive, massive mis-step: they decided to bring back Darth Maul.
This was probably inevitable. In fact, I've been hearing reports of him coming back (as a cyborg, as a clone, or something else) almost since "Phantom Menace" was released. And, superficially at least, it seems like a good idea - he's an incredibly popular character, and probably the most compelling new character introduced in TPM.
Alas, while it might sound like a good idea, it's really not. Like Boba Fett, Darth Maul's legend has always been inflated way beyond the reality. He looks cool, and he was a very good lieutenant for the Big Bad, but he actually does very little, he has almost no character to speak of, and in fact he doesn't even actually do anything evil in the film - just lots of standing around beside the actual bad guys.
And, of course, his death was pretty unambiguous. Cut in half and thrown down a bottomless shaft? Yeah, that's dead.
But no. More than ten years later, up he pops in the "Clone Wars" as some sort of mad hate-fuelled Drider Maul. Sigh.
And the funny thing is, it's entirely unnecessary. The same arc that has led to the resurrection of Darth Maul has also gone to all the trouble of introducing a 'brother' for the character - another Zabrak force-user, trained by Count Dooku, using a double-bladed lightsaber - Savage Opress. (And, what's more, he's voiced by Clancy Brown, and therefore inherently a better character!) With him in the show, there's absolutely no need for Darth Maul; conversely, if you've got Darth Maul, Savage Opress is redundant. Basically, there can be only one.
There's one other thing that really bothers me about all this: one of the key, signature things about Darth Maul is that he has all of three lines in "The Phantom Menace". And, in fact, that's really three too many - the nature of that character is that the less he says, the more effective he is. (It's just a shame that his very best line was cut from the film, and only appears in the trailers.)
So I was a little dismayed when he proceeded to start monologuing at the first available opportunity, and basically didn't stop.
(Plus, I was rather dismayed in the Mon Calamari episodes when Captain Ackbar never once referred to traps...)
On the other hand, I'm very much looking forward to the fifth season boxed set, so I can see what happens next. Could be cool.
#4: "Desolation Island", by Patrick O'Brian (yes, I'm already quite far behind on the reading...)