William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back

The Wampa talks.


EVERYBODY talks in this book. The AT-ATs talk. The Exogorth (betcha don’t even know what that is, do ya?) talks. The Ugnaughts? They SING. I’m actually ok with the singing part: Shakespeare featured plenty of breaks for songs, and music is an essential part of any culture, real or fictional. No, it’s a LATER singing part that’ll cause me to cringe like a crumpled-up bag of chips when I describe it to you. And everybody knows how much Shakespeare like to humanize his villains (even the ones who aren’t apparent villains, cough Romeo cough). But ysalamiri on a cracker, do we really need the Wampa to ask the audience to pity his base desire for food? “Hath not a Wampa eyes? If you cut off our arm, will we not disappear from the story entirely?”

Ok, the tauntaun doesn't talk. I think it's because she's shy.
Ok, the tauntaun doesn’t talk. I think it’s because she’s shy.

Anyways, this is part 2 in what I guess is a miniseries of mine where I explore Ian Doescher’s printing of a production of Star Wars in the Globe Theater. Or is this William Shakespeare in the 1970s, writing this screenplay in his usual style? I don’t know. The presence of a chorus in Verily, A New Hope hints that this is taking place on stage, but how do you stage Yoda moving the X-Wing, or really any scene involving several locations at once? You really would need a globe to fit all of this in! Ha, ha, Shakespeare humor. Although this does give me hope that somewhere in the Star Wars Universe, there’s a Globe Theater in the sense of an entire planet that you can watch stage the most epic and long-reaching of dramas, or even comedies. Folks would pay tickets to see a story that spans the scope of a biosphere from their spaceship’s video feed. If your play called for a massive forest fire, your audience can watch half the planet burn from space, then not watch as you bioengineer the replacement forest for next week’s show. Talk about all the world’s a stage. Ok, I’ll stop with the puns. Really.

Where was I? I could check the last paragraph, but screw it, let’s just keep moving. Last time, I asked whether this work is more Shakespeare than Star Wars. I’d argue this book is Bard to a fault. Knowing about the plot of one of Shakespeare’s plays doesn’t hinder your enjoyment of it (unless you’re already committed to hate him because he’s, like, SO boring), meaning that that aspect of his art is barely talked about. This book, too, considers plot a waxing of an already perfectly functional car. Everybody talks, and everyone foreshadows. Even if you were stuck in carbon freezing for the past 50 years and didn’t know the big twist, it’s foreshadowed in the same way a murderer pointing a knife at you foreshadows a murderer stabbing you with said knife. And yes, Shakespeare often ended scenes with couplets. But I’ve never seen a work of his that ended every single scene with couplets, or had lovers talk in sonnets every other scene while Romeo and Juliet only had the one. (Side note: He messed it up! Sonnet rhyme scheme goes ABABCDCDEFEFGG, yet the big scene with Han and Leia’s first kiss reads ABABCDCDEFEFGHGH. This guy studied more Shakespeare than I and writes sonnets at the back of each book to advertise his website HOW DID HE SCREW THIS I’m ok now).

Yes, I know, comedy and exaggeration are two fun things paired like a good night on the town and vehicular homicide. But sometimes exaggeration risks separating yourself from the thing you’re making fun of, like what happened with Dana Carvey’s impersonation of George Bush the Elder after a while. And exaggeration of form isn’t the main thing I want to see when I see a Shakespeare parody: I want to see epic monologues pondering life and brilliant descriptions of beautiful things and for everyone to die. You’ll get those first two aspects from this book, but they’re delivered rather straight as a whole. And yet, despite my continued apprehension over how the final product is presented, I’d say this is my favorite book of an entirely fun series. The text delivers the tension from the original story, the characters remain interesting and flawed, and the way Doescher writes Yoda-speak in a world where everyone talks like Yoda already is diamond-encrusted excellence, especially if you know what influenced Lucas’ writings. If I forgot to recommend this box set in the last review, consider this your chance to snatch a copy from the nerdiest youngster you can find. There are even some ways this adaptation improves on the original trilogy, which we’ll discuss when The Jedi Doth Return…

But before we go, I promised you the most cringe-worthy part of this story. Han is frozen, the Empire controls Cloud City, and Chewbacca… Chewbacca sings. I think Doescher took influence for this scene from the classic Star Wars Holiday Special.

Why not sing along? Don't answer that.
Why not sing along? Don’t answer that.

CHEWBAC.: [sings]Auugh, egh, auugh, auugh egh. Auugh, muh muh,

Egh, egh, auugh, egh, egh, muh, muh.

Auugh, auugh, egh, auugh, muh, egh, muh, muh,

Muh, wroshyr, wroshyr, wroshyr.

Enjoy getting that mental scarring out of your ear, friend!