Last week, we determined when Star Trek passed the point of no return as a respectable science fiction franchise. This week, we move on to that other mega-universe that dominates mainstream sci-fi:Q: When did Star Wars jump the shark? A: Star Wars: The Phantom Menace—Midi-Chlorians
The first time I saw Star Wars, I wanted to be a Jedi (I was six, and hadn't yet tuned into the princess-impressing coolness that was Han Solo.) Sure, I wasn't a Skywalker and The Force wasn't naturally strong with me, but a short hyperspace jaunt to Alderaan and some personal time with a Jedi master and I could take my first steps into a larger world. There was some work involved — just like training for any martial art of superhero skill — but with enough effort, and a pure heroic heart, I could become a techno-mystical knight protecting order and justice in a galaxy far, far away. It was a question of character, just like any great fairy tale always is.And then Phantom Menace came along and, with all due disrespect to Jar Jar Binks, gave us the single worst Star Wars moment in a rapidly expanding history of awful Star Wars moments: Midi-chlorians.
Jedi, you see, aren't made, they're born. They're of the blood, nobility, maybe even a master race. If your midi-chlorian count isn't high enough, don't even bother to apply. Anakin Skywalker was basically the equivalent of a can't-miss basketball prospect from the mean streets of Tatooine who got a Jedi Academy scholarship despite being a punk. Yeah, that's going to resonate with all the athletically addled dorks who used to idolize the franchise.
Yoda wasn't awesome because he was a zen-master adept who spent centuries honing his communion with The Force, but because his little frog-pig body was jam-packed with psionic parasites. That single slap in the face to Star Wars fans was the first of many attempts by Lucas to expand and explain the mechanics of his franchise, and in the process he knocked out the foundations of what was once the coolest character concept in all of sci-fi. Thanks, George.
Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can also follow him on his personal blog.