Since the brief mention of the “Clone Wars” in the original Star Wars movie (now dubbed Episode IV), I had wondered just what the heck the “Clone Wars” were. But it was never expanded upon in the original series- nor was it ever really discussed in any form in the many years after the trilogy came out.
The first time I can remember anyone even touching on the subject of clones was in the Timothy Zahn “Heir to the Empire” novels. Even then, things were kept more than a little vague. In these novels, the villains secure and make use of “Spaarti cloning cylinders” to create an army. It was insinuated that such things were used during the clone wars- and was assumed (by my friends and I at least) that it was the ENEMY of the Republic that used them. To me, this made sense. Cloning seemed to be an inherently ‘evil’ thing, and certainly something the Republic would fight against. Certainly, that is how it was portrayed in the novels- with the clones created serving as faceless minions of the bad guys- organic ‘puppets’ used to further the goals of ambitious beings.
It was with these limited (and somewhat dubious) sources of information that I pieced together my own theory on what the Clone Wars were. I imagined that the Old Republic was faced with invasion from a powerful outside force- perhaps they called themselves the “Clonemasters” or some such. Utilizing the technology of cloning, they ruthlessly prosecuted a war against the Republic, seeking to claim the galaxy as their own. Against the homogenous clone armies of the ‘Masters’ were arrayed the somewhat rag-tag army and navy of the Old Republic- with troops from thousands of different species and cultures struggling to survive both the attacks of their enemy and the corruption and splintered nature of their own government. Ultimately, with the leadership of the Jedi, the Republic was able to unify and prevail- only to (ironically) fall into the same mold as the Clonemasters- ruled by an Empire that increasingly demanded uniformity.
As far as the Clonemasters themselves go, I figured they were (in some way) directed or influenced by Dark Side Force users- though perhaps not the Sith. As far as the Emperor and Vader, I assumed that perhaps the ‘Sith’ were actually a splinter group of the Jedi (or rather, a dark reflection of that order)- representing those Jedi who ‘did what had to be done’ to defeat the Clonemasters- selling their souls (as it were) in order to achieve victory. I assumed that the corruption of the Old Republic, even victorious, left the government very weak after the war- easy prey to a charismatic leader like Emperor Palpatine. As he rose in power, he had to eliminate the Jedi- and replace them with his own order of ‘guardians’ (loyal to him, of course)- the Sith. Through most of my initial Star Wars campaign (from 1991 up until 2002), it was this image of the Clone Wars that I kept in the back of my mind.
I had also placed the Clone Wars some thirty years prior to the events of the original movie, instead of the twenty that is now ‘official’. The age of Obi-Wan seemed to suggest at least that amount of time. I knew this would mean that Luke and Leia were born some ten years AFTER the end of the Clone Wars, but I figured that perhaps it took time for Vader to go Evil and for the Empire to show its face as the tyranny it truly was. So perhaps Vader and his wife lived for some ten years prior to the final betrayal of the Jedi and rise of the Sith.
When Episode II came out, however, this whole theory was thrown out the window. The Clones were suddenly the good guys. While it all made sense within the plot of the movies, I can’t help but find this a little confusing and unsatisfying. The main problem I have with it is the Old Republic’s (and the Jedi’s) unquestioning acceptance of this Clone Army. Setting aside all of the ethical ramifications of what is essentially a slave army, the fact that NOBODY seems to question HOW this army came into existence (or even who the heck PAID for it) just seems stupid on an incredible level. Yes, I understand that the Old Republic was desperate for an army to defend itself, but come on. Seriously? Nobody- not ONE person questioned the ‘happy coincidence’ of finding this army at EXACTLY the moment they required it? I mean, if even one character had pondered the ramifications of this in the movie, I would have been satisfied, but as it stands, I don’t think anyone does. Sure, Obi-Wan investigates, but once he finds the army? No more questions are raised by anyone (unless I missed something?).
So anyway, there are still times when I like my own version of things just a little bit more than the official. Even so, I can’t deny that the plot of Episode II was otherwise quite enjoyable and that the deviousness of Palpatine was MUCH more interesting than anything I had come up with. There are times, however, when I still ponder a ‘mash up’ of the prequel trilogies and my own theories- which I still think have some legs to them.
What about you folks? Before Episode II, what did YOU think the Clone Wars were?