‘Brain Invaders.’ Just say it to yourself a few times. Brain Invaders, Brain Invaders, Brain Invaders. Those two words remind me of so much… arcade games, Star Trek II, dewy summer morns relaxing at Grandma’s farm. Alas, the title is never seen on-screen, nor spoken within the episode. Still, we have it here, on the internet, and in the future, on DVD menus. It is enough.
Of course, we already know who the brain invaders are, having met them a couple of weeks ago in ‘Legacy of Terror.’ In that installment, the slimy little worms were controlling zombie Geonosians. Zombie Geonosians! How do you possibly top that? In retrospect, the answer seems obvious: put the worms in clonetroopers, then send ‘em into space with nowhere to run… and, yes, nobody to hear you scream. If last week’s ep was a Star Wars version of Aliens (complete with caverns of unstoppable beasties and an awesomely creepy Queen), this week is the GFFA’s take on the original Alien. Give Ahsoka a perm, and I’d swear she was Sigourney Weaver.
Speaking of uncomfortable comparisons to actresses in their underwear, this episode may finally be the breaking point for Ahsoka’s wardrobe. First we see her trying, in vain, to get some sleep. You know what helps me when I’m tired? A blanket! Try one out, Ms. Tano, and discover this wonderful thing called warmth. Later on, she heads to the TARDIS console room and cranks the AC to full blast, slowly sinking the ship into a deep-freeze. Ahsoka gets pretty frosty towards the end – so will this force her to reconsider her standard short skirt/sports bra combo? Only time will tell.
Let’s go back to the clonetroopers for a moment. It was fun seeing them go all Order 66 on Ahsoka and Barriss Offee – and the clones make the salient point that they would know how to stop a Jedi – but what really made it work was the setting. The interior of the medical frigate was nigh identical to the famous Blockade Runner, so when we saw the mind-controlled clones marching down the hallway, they looked like a squad of good ol’ fashioned OT-era stormtroopers. Touches like these are completely incidental to the plot, but they make the show much more exciting. Whoever’s doing the production design deserves a raise, or at least a hug.
So with clone troopers acting like stormtroopers, it’s only natural that Darth Vader would show up. Anakin has an intensely evil scene in this episode, but he’s more calculating and controlled (Vader-esque, I believe it’s called) than the loose cannon rageaholic we’re used to seeing. We even hear the Imperial March play underneath, which really adds to the effect. This is the darkest Anakin’s been in the show, and the image of Poggle’s feet dangling as he’s being choked was both thrilling and chilling.
Truth is, this whole episode was chilling. Everything seemed bathed in ice, from Ahsoka’s frozen breath to the perpetual blue glow of Hyperspace surrounding the ships. The clausterphobic “infection” scenes were staged like a slasher film, with sudden cuts and half-heard screams, and those up-the-nostril/out-the-mouth worms had me squirming in my seat. There were some real jumps in ‘Brain Invaders’ – without a doubt, it’s the scariest Clone Wars so far.
Yet, for all that pizzazz, the best moments were the quiet ones. Barriss and Ahsoka have a heartfelt (and, in a way, sad) conversation about the post-war role of the Jedi, then later Ahsoka questions her own actions aboard the ship… and doesn’t get a very satisfying answer. My favorite moment, though, was almost a throwaway: “We were bred to follow orders,” says one trooper, in a line that could easily describe the hostile worms. The battle lines continue to blur, and the episodes just get better and better.