“Fear is a disease. Hope is its only cure.”
Hope may be a good cure for fear, but keep your hazmat suit on – there’s an outbreak on the horizon. This pair of episodes form a single story arc over an attempt to release a lethal virus across the galaxy being contained on Naboo, which means – yup, Jar Jar gets more heroics.
Hearing about some battle droids being found on Naboo, Padmé Amidala and Jar Jar Binks race home like good elected officials. Meeting up with Typho and Queen Neeyutnee (how often does Naboo get a new queen anyway?), they head over to droid analysis and start pulling information out of the apprehended tactical droid, with a 2-1B type droid doing a little robo-brain surgery. Because Jack Bauer is busy, Threepio is used to convince their captive to share his secrets. Apparently there’s a secret Separatist base on Naboo, but before its location can be revealed, Jar Jar’s clumsy antics in chasing a tasty-looking blue bug around the lab result in minor devastation in the droid lab, and their prisoner gets squashed. But fear not, Jar Jar recognizes where the bug comes from, and they make plans to scout out the Eastern Swamps while waiting for the Jedi to send Obi-wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker to help, with the excuse that those two are trusted by the Gungans.
Passing over the grassy plains on the way, Padmé and Jar Jar run across a herd of shaaks at a stream, with many of the beasts looking deathly ill. Stepping out of their ship in hazmat gear, the two get accosted by Peppi Bow, a Gungan shaakherder who attacks them until she realizes that they’re allies in the cause to find out what is poisoning her herd – and there’s no need for space suits – the disease is waterborne. Peppi gets sent to Theed, and the senator and the representative reach the swamps, where they find a hatch in the ground. The would-be Locke and Boone report their findings then get captured by battle droids and pulled into the secret Separatist underground Dharma station.
Inside the station, the mad scientist Dr. Frankenstein, I mean, Nuvo Vindi (voiced by Michael York) explicates in his German accent his plot to create an airborne version of the much-maligned blue shadow virus and release it across the galaxy in a series of bombs to help it live. He even has a handy electric zappy station which he used on the virus to aerosolize it, but it doubles as a great place to keep prisoners secure. Meanwhile, the Jedi have arrived, with Ahsoka sent off with Peppi to find the lab in the swamp, while Obi-wan and Anakin getting the latest analysis on their enemy: mad scientist long thought disappeared + biological weapons = galaxy-wide bantha poodoo! Good thing they sent Ahsoka to check it out. Their brilliant plan: prevent the spread of the virus by containing it to Naboo if need be. Anakin’s not happy about the prospect of sacrificing Padmé to the virus in order to contain it in the lab.
Using Ahsoka to set up a diversion attack on the lab, Anakin and Obi-wan and their gunships blow a few holes in the lab. While Obi-wan and his men try to find the bombs and neutralize them, Anakin find the main lab and confronts Vindi, who in true mad scientist fashion, forces Anakin to choose between saving the captives and capturing the villain. In the tunnels, droids try to stop the intruding Jedi and clones, with some cool action on the part of some destroyer droids rolling along the tubular walls. Anakin chooses to save his Padmé (and by default, Jar Jar as well), and Vindi rushes off to his escape ship. Obi-wan and his men start defusing a giant room of beeping bombs, but there’s one bomb missing. Padmé remembers seeing a little droid being given the last bomb, and the chase is on. The little rabbit droid (which looks suspiciously like a cartoon Thanksgiving turkey running on its drumsticks) is eventually cornered in a plant lab by Jar Jar and Padmé, where the Gungan tackles it and the senator catches the ticking bomb.
Cutting through to the landing platform, Anakin and Obi-wan hop up the giant elevator to get Vindi, who tosses vials of the virus at them to slow them down as they try to catch them and prevent them from breaking. Seriously guys – the Force would be a good thing to use here. Reaching the surface, Vindi faces off with Anakin, and gets ambushed by Peppi and her electropole. Vindi surrenders to Anakin but claims victory as the timer on his bombs has ended. But there’s no boom – the clones have defused every last bomb, including the one found by Padmé.
Cue end credits of the first episode and moving onto part two: “Mystery of a Thousand Moons”
Vindi’s plot isn’t over yet – it turns out that the little rabbit droid took out the viral agent before losing the bomb to Jar Jar and Padmé. Before they can retrieve it, the droid pops the vial into a bomb and released the virus in the underground lab, and race is on to reach a safe lockdown room. Ahsoka, Rex and the clones make it to a safe room – but not quick enough… some of the blue clouds of the virus entered with them. In 48 hours, they’ll be dead – but the situation is even direr – remaining battle droids could open up the hatches to escape, freeing the plague upon Naboo. Meanwhile, Padmé and Jar Jar are still in the lab, but they are wearing Monsters, Inc. hazmat suits, so they’re safe, but trapped.
Unable to risk contamination, Obi-wan and Anakin zip over to Theed and turn Vindi over to the Naboo after trying a little good Jedi, bad Jedi to no effect. Luckily, Typho’s researchers have found a possible cure: the roots of the reeksa plant, found on the Separatist controlled world of Iego (mental click: Episode One: reference to angels living on the moons of Iego). Unwilling to let Padmé… errrr… Ahsoka and Rex and the others die, Anakin and Obi-wan board Twilight and fly off for the cure. Meanwhile, Padmé and Jar Jar reach Ahsoka and the clones and team up to prevent the battle droids from breaching the quarantine barriers to infect the planet.
During one of the fights, Padmé tackles Jar Jar to save him, but her air hose is broken, and she too is among the infected. O cruel irony to have Jar Jar be the only one to survive!
Above Iego, the Jedi race through a field of destroyed ships and potato-looking small moons to reach the planet. After landing, Anakin runs out and slices up a group of battle droids, who were merely welcoming them to the planet. Turns out that these droids have been re-programmed by a kid named Jaybo Hood (who I swear is the “tech genius brat” found in every Final Fantasy type game,) stranded on Iego after the Separatists left behind a warehouse of droid parts. Unphased that half his servants have been destroyed by a saber-wielding maniac, he’ll help the Jedi find the root, but believes that the urgency won’t matter since no one can leave the planet because of Drol, killer of the last fifty pilots who tried to take off.
Anakin and Obi-wan start climbing down a sheer rock face to reach the roots of the reeksa, but Anakin finds a better way – hitching a ride down with a feral pterodactyl-like xandu. In the dark chasm, Obi-wan faces off against the Audrey II-esque reeksa plant while Anakin does a little gardening and digs up a small piece of root.
Back in the lab, Ahsoka has cleared out the last group of battle droids, but has started to succumb to the virus. The threat of planet-wide contamination has been stopped.
Warned by the superstitious leaders of Iego of the dangers of trying to leave the planet and get killed like Taquito the Rodian who tried to leave (Taquito? Does he have kin named Burrito, Chimichanga, and Relleno?), the Jedi take off anyway, and learn that the planet isn’t protected by a ghost named Drol, but a giant web of lasers, bouncing from a central hub across the “eyes” of the thousand potato-looking moons. Not able to get through, the Jedi land back on Iego, and Anakin learns that Naboo is safe, but Padmé and Ahsoka are doomed. Anakin hopes to simply outrun the grid, but Obi-wan wants to make a plan, and solicits the help of the Iegan leaders, and meets one of the Angels formerly of the moons of Iego, who mentions her home moon as a likely place for the central hub since it was taken over by Separatists.
Letting Artoo remotely fly a squadron of Jaybo’s reprogrammed vulture droids to suicidally attack the laser grid, Twilight manages to destroy the superlaser source on Millius Prime and allow the Iego’s residents the freedom to travel once more – and blasts back to Naboo with the root. The Jedi arrive on Naboo to see Padmé, Ahsoka, and the surviving clones brought out on stretchers to board gunships – apparently they arrived in time to administer treatment. But seriously, they need to review their epidemic-quarantine procedures here – airborne virus, no envirosuits? Anakin’s glad that Padmé’s not dead, and proud of Ahsoka for not dying either. Obi-wan thinks that the heroic Jar Jar should get weapons training, something that Rex hopes to steer clear of.
Overall, the story arc was clever, with a good balance between tension and humor. One of Obi-wan’s nameless clones gets in a dry comment when they reach the room with the bombs, and Jaybo’s reprogrammed droids has some visual wackiness with their drawn-on faces and servant activities. York did a fine job as the German mad scientist, albeit the character is such a caricature of that stereotype, and BJ Hughes as Jar Jar Binks, while not sounding quite like Ahmed Best, does a good job – and perhaps the change in voice helps to differentiate the comical klutz from The Phantom Menace to the a bit more resourceful, but occasionally clumsy representative we’ve seen in the past few episodes of “The Clone Wars”. And Anakin, Ahsoka knows.
‘Blue Shadow Virus:’
‘Mystery of a Thousand Moons’