My Favorite Cinematic Space Battles

Crop of the cover of The Last Watch by J.S. Dewes.

Crop of the cover of The Last Watch by J.S. Dewes.
Image: Tor Books

From For All Mankind to Space Sweepers, every day more great sci-fi adventures grace our screens both big and small. All signs point to a sci-fi renaissance filled with reluctant heroes, scrappy misfits, and snarky sentient robots. Of course, I can’t forget one of the most quintessential staples of the genre: the epic space battle. Massive energy weapons firing from colossal battleships, sleek starfighters zipping past exploding support ships, and our heroes accomplishing feats of (often erroneous) physics our earth-bound minds can hardly fathom.

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But are cool ships, big explosions, and striking visuals all that’s needed to make a space battle great? As both a filmmaker and author, I love picking apart sequences and peeling back the layers to reveal the gooey thematic insides. Keep reading for some cinematic insight into three very different but equally impactful sci-fi battle sequences! (Light spoilers ahead.)


Rogue One

Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) takes aim in Rogue One.

Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) takes aim in Rogue One.
Image: Lucasfilm

What the Movie Consistently Gets Right

Though by no means a perfect film, for me Rogue One gets a ton of points simply for being one of the most Star Wars feeling of Star Wars films. From the ships and weapons to costumes and makeup, everything feels dirty and genuine and incredibly lived. (Sounds basic, but weathering is a crucial immersion detail too often overlooked in SFF.) In the same vein of gritty realness, Rogue One’s reliance on practical effects bolstered by perfectly blended CGI makes the VFX easily some of the best of any Star Wars film. Practical effects are often used even for distant background action, all executed with great precision and attention to detail that creates a layered sense of realism that roots the audience to the story and characters in a way not easily achieved in just two hours of runtime.


The Battle of Scarif

After learning about the Death Star and the “fatal flaw,” Jyn Erso proposes a mission to the Rebel Alliance to retrieve the design plans from an Imperial base. Unable to gain the support of Alliance leadership, Jyn and Cassian take it upon themselves to carry out the mission, assembling a small unit of rebel allies to join them on the planet Scarif.

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Though there are plenty of great space battles in the Star Wars repertoire to choose from, this near-perfect example of an intercut ground and space battle made Rogue One an easy choice. This sequence carries a lot of weight on its shoulders, more so than similar climax sequences due to the fact that (most of) the audience already knows how the movie will end. And yet Rogue One’s Battle of Scarif stands on its own as a cinematic tour de force even outside the context of A New Hope, managing to build nail-biting tension through the sheer piling-on of conflict points. So very much happens in this almost 30-minute sequence, and nary a second is wasted, only rarely cutting away to Uncanny Valley Tarkin or the Rebel base. The whole thing feels messy and slapdash and desperate—all themes consistent throughout the film, and in line with what we expect to see from a scrappy rebel army. Yet despite that chaos, the filmmakers have made it incredibly easy for the viewer to follow what’s going on.

One thing this sequence accomplishes masterfully is in how it utilizes shot design and editing to link the three facets of the battle—ground, air, and space. Most of these mini-action sequences play out via shots designed to place us in the rebels’ shoes—from their cockpits, over their shoulders as they scramble to new positions, low angles matching their eye line as they look up to the air battle overhead, etc. In one great example, we see a cockpit POV of a fighter about to go down, then cut to an exterior shot as that ship crashes, only to have that same shot move down to create a new establishing shot for the ground battle with rebels running frantically in the foreground. These dual-purpose shots not only make for smooth visual pacing, but tie the sequence together to create a sense of many small pieces working together to achieve a whole: this engagement isn’t about big ships vs. big ships or big strategies vs. big strategies, but rather one frantic, desperate move after the other—all contributing to an ongoing metaphor for the rebellion.

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Another of my favorite details happens early in the ground firefight when a random rebel gets shot and his equally random buddy nearby screams “NO!” and runs to him. It’s a small thing you might not even notice on first viewing, but similar instances occur a handful of times—unnamed, faceless people get lines and emotions and take critical actions to advance the rebels’ progress in a way not often seen in other films, where they’d traditionally be nothing more than additions to the body count. A similar situation happens again when a soldier is raised on comms and told to find the “master switch,” and we get a conversation between two (technically named but essentially random) characters. The short exchange almost feels like a behind-the-scenes look—the true, nitty-gritty rebel soldier experience, versus the broader view of explosions and destruction we so often see in sci-fi battles.

We see this yet again when the rebel fleet finally arrives, and in a brilliant editing choice, we don’t get the classic “cavalry has arrived” epic sweeping shot of the fleet warping into frame. Instead, we see their arrival to Scarif through the direct POV of a fighter pilot—once again putting us in the shoes of the everyday person and creating a sense of intimacy with the rebel forces. Small details like this all work toward engaging the audience emotionally, furthering the intrinsic sense of community and frenzied nature of the engagement. It’s not only up to our heroes to save the day—every person is critical to the success of the mission. Closer to the end, when the rebel fleet admiral—another essentially random character—makes a major decision that changes the course of the battle by sacrificing a rebel ship in order to send a disabled star destroyer careening into its neighbor. Questionable physics aside, this quintessentially desperate move results in the second most beautiful battle shot in all of Star Wars (the Holdo maneuver inarguably in first place) as the two star destroyers totally annihilate each other. Beautifully reckless tactics are what really set this entire engagement apart from a typical space battle, and to great effect.

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That moment is as much a turning point for the viewer as it is for the rebels, as the audience is allowed to (briefly) breathe for the first time in over twenty minutes. However, soon the Death Star rises like a murder moon over the horizon, the sound design goes muted, and ships just start dying quietly under a bittersweet orchestral score. Then, to cap off half an hour of straight tension, we’re rewarded with easily one of the best pay-off sequences in cinematic history as Vadar absolutely destroys that corridor. Say what you want about the film as a whole, but hot damn.


Battlestar Galactica, “Resurrection Ship, Part 2”

Spot the Cylons!

Spot the Cylons!
Image: Syfy

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What the Series Consistently Gets Right

Invariably the first well-done element that comes to my mind when thinking about space combat in Battlestar Galactica is the almost “handheld” motion of the camera—one that continually adapts (and at times almost hunts) in both scale and focus while zeroing in on the action. It’s a style established early on and returned to almost without exception as a device to instantly evoke tension—when we’re outside the ships, it’s immediately obvious from the motion of the camera whether we’re in trouble or not.

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A major element BSG consistently gets right is that it keeps it simple, both with the components of the battle and the choreography. There are generally only two units of any consequence on either side: battleships and fighters. We’re primed early on in the series about the capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses of each ship, and because we know the rules, aren’t overwhelmed by sheer possibilities, paving the way for us to follow engagements clearly while still allowing for surprises when creative tactics are employed. Similarly, the physical blocking of the battle is typically kept very simple: Battlestars and basestars are almost never maneuvered, ensuring a static lay of the battlefield that greatly diminishes potential disorientation. Both elements contribute to a subtle simplicity that allows the audience’s focus to stay where it should: the story and characters.

Which leads to yet another thing BSG is great at: personification. A massive fight with a thousand ships can make for great eye candy, but we can’t possibly care about a thousand individual ships. Creating a strong link between the characters and their ships is critical to establishing stakes in an otherwise faceless battle. BSG is consistently generous with CIC and cockpit shots, so we always know who is where, and thus who’s in trouble as things get chaotic.

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The Battle of the Resurrection Ship

After discovering a Cylon resurrection ship, the Galactica and Pegasus work together to generate a plan to destroy the vessel. Meanwhile, both Adama and Cain scheme to seize command by executing the other after the engagement concludes.

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Though I originally intended this as an example of a more “classic” space battle, there’s actually a lot going on in this sequence that doesn’t follow typical convention—for the show itself, or cinematic sci-fi as a whole. This is a situation where the battle itself is almost beside the point—the well-planned, perfectly executed attack ultimately serving as one giant counterpoint to the human drama unfolding on the ship. This is reflected from the very first shot of the battle, when instead of the aforementioned frenzied handheld camera style we’ve come to expect, we instead get one long shot—which still hunts and changes focus, but does so in a surprisingly slow, steady manner. This subversion is almost unnerving at first but quickly lures us in with the promise of spectacle as we’re allowed to watch the battle unfold in a much clearer, cleaner way than most other action sequences in the show. We begin to see these contrasting elements even more clearly when Lee’s fighter takes a hit and he’s ejected into open space. A typical space battle establishing shot lacks any kind of true point of view, often seen from an omniscient standpoint somewhere far off to one side of the field of battle. But here we get to see our wide, dramatic establishing shot directly from over a character’s shoulder as he floats helplessly in space, rooting us not only positionally but thematically as Lee’s disillusionment with the state of human affairs escalates.

And really, the entire rest of the battle serves to impress this disillusionment on the viewer. It’s clear the entire time that the humans have the upper hand, and yet we don’t get a single exuberant victory shot or the triumphant music one might expect. Instead, we’re presented with a series of long, sweeping, silent shots of the Cylons’ resurrection ship being destroyed, continued via more of the much steadier, smoother camerawork and long takes. In one haunting shot, we get a detailed view of hundreds of Centurions as they’re ejected into space. Though the narrative continues to assure us our heroes are “in the right,” we’re still made to feel the Cylon’s vulnerability as this closely guarded secret ship is laid bare to open space in such primal detail—all serving as subtle foreshadowing for the series’ upcoming questions of morality as the lines between human and Cylon continue to blur.

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A well-planned, well-executed space battle with hardly a single mishap should run the risk of feeling tedious or even boring, and yet this sequence is anything but due to the thematic tie-in of our heroes’ “success.” The cinematography, editing, music, and sound design all reflect that choice—even the CGI is cleaner and better looking than most of the rest of the show. Though atypical of most, this battle is beautiful and well-executed both diegetically and non-diegetically, resulting in a sequence that’s much better than the sum of its parts—something that should be the aim of any great action sequence.


Serenity

The Serenity theatrical poster.

The Serenity theatrical poster.
Image: Universal Pictures

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What the Movie Consistently Gets Right

Getting us to care enough about the characters to make what the filmmakers pull off in this incredibly brief sequence possible. Oh, and witty banter.

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The Universe Battle

After learning of the Alliance’s horrific cover-up, the crew of the Serenity races to Mr. Universe’s planet so they can expose the evidence to the public. With an Alliance fleet awaiting their arrival, they lure an enraged Reaver fleet behind them to act as cover while they make a break for the planet.

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The baiting of the Reaver fleet kicks this sequence off with a very quintessential Firefly reversal of expectation—and from this very first decision, the audience is given perfect footing. Though we’re about to experience a very not quintessential Firefly sequence in the form of a massive fleet battle the likes of which the film nor series has seen before, it feels like we are about to experience a very quintessential Firefly sequence, all because our scrappy crew used a smart, dangerous, desperate tactic to get themselves there. This same framing is maintained throughout the battle, with the combat serving as a backdrop for the Serenity’s gauntlet through a maze of destruction. Unlike the other two examples, once the battle actually begins, we never see a single omniscient point of view or even the point of view of another ship involved—friend or foe. This acts as a consummate example of the aforementioned “personification” of ships: the Serenity itself acts as the POV character through which we experience the entire battle, with literally every single shot in the sequence at least beginning with its focus on the ship, only panning (but never cutting) away a few times to briefly showcase some awesome mini-brawl happening in the chaotic Reaver/Alliance battle.

Despite our “main character” not being involved in the actual fighting, the stakes are arguably even more keenly felt than a typical battle sequence. Not only due to the frantic pace of the choreography and editing, but because the ship itself is filled with literally every single remaining character we care about. Only our ride-or-die crew matters at this point, so—ironically, as far as grandiose space battles go—we don’t even care about the engagement itself except in the cover it serves for their escape. Speaking of, this one gets full marks for geography. Excellent directionality is maintained throughout (Alliance baddies go left to right, heroes and Reavers go right to left), giving a clear understanding of the layout of the battlefield and movement of various vessels—atypical of a lot of space battles which tend toward a “from all directions!” chaos approach.

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This is bolstered by another atypical decision in that we get mostly sweeping, steady, long takes of the action. The shot duration makes these protracted sequences easy to digest, and yet they still feel dense and chaotic since they’re so rife with action. Every shot has a ton of different things going on, and you could rewatch a half dozen time and still miss plenty. Another great feature of this battle that might otherwise be easy to overlook is the sound design—simple in execution but big on impact. It’s muted and selective to start, building steadily as the scene progresses, more and more layering on until a full complement of sound effects are depicted. The viewer finds themselves slowly bombarded with sounds much like our characters are slowly bombarded by stress as they run their gauntlet. This choice is just one of the many details about this sequence that keeps tensions high even as they enter atmosphere, the main battle falls away, they crash-land on the planet, and their gambit is successful—though not without both witty dialogue and serious consequences, in proper Firefly fashion.


Illustration for article titled My Favorite Cinematic Space Battles

Image: Tor Books

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io9 thanks filmmaker and author J.S. Dewes for sharing her favorite space battles with us. It’s something you can experience more of in her debut novel, The Last Watch, available now from Tor Books.


For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.

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How Star Wars’ Biggest Fan Wiki Found Itself in a Fight Over Trans Identity

If you’re a Star Wars fan online, there stands a high chance that you’ve not only heard of Wookieepedia—the Fandom-owned community resource archiving eons of material from the franchise—but spent more time than you’d like to admit looking up everything from Ickabel G’ont to the history of the Grysk Hegemony. But an internal community debate catapulted the site into controversy this past weekend over editorial policies that put the venerable site in the spotlight for very different reasons.

Since being founded 16 years ago this month in 2005, Wookieepedia has grown to be one of the biggest unofficial Star Wars resources on the internet, with over 165,000 articles created and maintained by its community and administrative teams. As Star Wars canon has grown alongside the movies and beyond—and then split when Disney purchased the franchise and Lucasfilm in 2012, creating a new canon to override the previous Expanded Universe—Wookieepedia became a titan in the field of pop culture wikias, and is currently the sixth-largest Wikia community in the world. In spite of its status as an engine for fan archives rather than anything officially tied to Lucasfilm, its reputation as a reliable resource has led to it being turned to by likes of Rogue One’s Felicity Jones and Solo’s Alden Ehrenreich as a source to prepare for their own trips into Disney’s galaxy far, far away.

Wookieepedia doesn’t just archive relating to information that is part of the Star Wars universe, but media in our own as well. Authors, artists, creatives who worked on the films, and other people of our galaxy who helped build Star Wars sit alongside the likes of fictional heroes like Leia Organa and Rey Skywalker, with their pages held to the same validity and archival standards. It’s here that the site found itself at the center of a furious controversy—and part of a progressive sea change in the growing acceptance and embracing of trans and non-binary identities in fan circles and beyond, at a time when trans and wider queer rights continue to be challenged on state and federal levels.

Up until this week, Wookieepedia previously operated under an editorial policy that any creative with a page on the wiki would be cited by the name they were credited with in whatever piece of Star Wars media had earned them a page in the first place. However, as the rights of trans and non-binary people have become more publicly discussed on a societal level, what at first might have seemed like a benign, even understandable policy for a fan wiki, became a problem. Outside of certain exceptions, if a person had changed their name for any reason—including if the subject had transitioned—their Wookieepedia page would remain credited to their prior name.

For trans and non-binary people, in particular, the act of using their birthname over their real name (known as “deadnaming”), especially intentionally so, is erasing their identity. At “best”—in so much as there can possibly be a “best” when it comes to deadnaming—it’s unintentionally disrespectful, at worst it’s a decision that can actively cause stress and harm to trans and non-binary people, denying them their humanity. In either case, deadnaming perpetuates a hostile and unwelcoming environment for trans and queer people of all identities; an aggression on top of the discrimination they already face across the world on governmental stages.

The Star Wars community was already discussing trans issues recently in the wake of actress Gina Carano’s exit from The Mandalorian. In February of this year, we learned she would no longer be utilized by Lucasfilm after a year of controversial social media statements. These included an incident where the wrestler-turned-actress updated her Twitter bio to read “beep/bop/boop,” a Star Wars droid-themed play on people who choose to include their pronouns on social media. She faced criticism for that from those who took it as her mocking trans people.

These issues all came to the fore again recently with artist Robin Pronovost, a trans non-binary creative who has previously worked on pieces for Topps trading cards, Star Wars Insider, and Star Wars Kids, as well as Hyperspace.com, the former official Star Wars fan club site, and uses they/them/he pronouns. Pronovost appealed to Wookieepedia to have their article use their name after back-and-forth edit wars in accordance with the site’s policy reverted to deadnaming them. “I merely wanted my name changed, and didn’t think a wiki would be that difficult to change. After all, last year, someone at wookieepedia had changed my article from my deadname to Robin, so removing the deadname didn’t feel like a big deal.” Pronovost told io9 over email.Despite giving sources and reasons for wanting the change, I was aggressively and violently rebuffed. Nobody contacted me until today. It’s been stressful, and I didn’t expect or want it to blow up as much as it did. I’d like to thank everyone who stood up for me and all trans people.”

Human rights should never be put to a vote. And even though I may have done work under a previous name, there are resources which are widely available and were provided that state crediting by an individual’s chosen name is preferred. In the end, it comes down to the individual. If a transgender person wishes to have their old name as a credit, that is their wish. I do not. And that’s all I wanted.”

Although Fandom has community guidelines and terms of services for each of the pop culture wiki sites the entertainment conglomerate owns—including of course Wookieepedia for Star Wars, Memory Alpha for Star Trek, the Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki, and more—for 16 years Wookieepedia’s administration has primarily been handled by teams of volunteer contributors. Site policies and editorial decisions have been made by the team of administrators but also discussed and voted upon by contributors to the site in Wookieepedia’s Consensus Track forums. On March 16, a thread in the Consensus Track was created, seeking to change the policy with a simple addendum: “If a real-world person is transgender and has changed their name since working on Star Wars, their article may be titled by their chosen name and the credited name turned into a redirect.” To many involved, the fact that Wookieepedia turned a simple request for respect into an editorial debate to be voted on was a step too far, but the process was what the site’s administration team knew, even if the optics would eventually blow up in their faces.

The vote started out just like any other on the Consensus Track would: users would have two weeks (the deadline here was March 30) to either vote for or against the amendment. In order to vote on debates that affect site policy in the first place, Wookieepedia enacts stringent vetting rules. Editors have to have already been proactively contributing to edits across the site’s 100,000-plus articles, 50 contributions in total. Site policy votes in particular have an additional rule—votes only pass if they succeed a 2:1 majority.

For the most part, even as controversial as the vote was, much of the two-week voting period went as any other would. Arguments in favor of the change noted how doing otherwise fostered a hostile environment for both queer visitors and contributors to Wookieepedia, while arguments against cited a desire not to disrespect trans people, but protect Wookieepedia’s SEO rankings online. It wasn’t until three days before the vote was set to conclude this past weekend that vote details left the orbit of Wookieepedia itself and drew the attention of wider Star Wars fan circles, largely through a tweet from the account of Star Wars journal Eleven-ThirtyEight:

“Having been a fixture of the original Wookieepedia community for a good while, I maintain several friendships with people who are active in these things, and knowing how I would likely react, one such acquaintance brought it to my attention when it appeared at risk of losing,” Mike Cooper, Eleven-ThirtyEight’s Editor-in-Chief, told io9 over email. “I’m sympathetic to the idea that this matter should supersede voting but as I said, my expectations of them were sufficiently low that my primary reaction was pleasant surprise—to even potentially pass a policy change like that meant the community had come a long way from where they were.”

Cooper contributed to Wookieepedia in its early days under the username CooperTFN. “When Wookieepedia was first launched, I was writing for the major fansite TheForce.Net and was a huge supporter,” he said. “I was a regular editor myself for a while and wrote a couple big articles basically from scratch, but my writing tended to be a little florid compared to their desired encyclopedic (read: dry) standard. Over the next few years, my enthusiasm for that degree of activity waned, and in retrospect, I just think it wasn’t a great fit for me.” Part of that waning was Cooper’s belief that Wookieepedia’s administration began taking decisions down a different path to his own beliefs, which he has written about extensively in his own work at Eleven-ThirtyEight.

This is not the first time Wookieepedia has wrestled with discriminatory editorial policies in the site’s mission to catalog every facet of the Star Wars galaxy. A similar controversy erupted in 2014, when, after an April Fool’s joke, a modified version of the site’s article page for Breasts was highlighted on Wookieepedia’s home page as the article of the day. Criticism of the gag as sexist also spurred further attempts by editors to have the page deleted from the site (other body parts, including genitalia, did not warrant Wookieepedia pages) after a first vote had failed to do so in 2007, with a 26-21 vote in favor of deletion failing to supersede Wookieepedia’s 2:1 majority requirement.

In 2014, the vote to delete overwhelmingly failed again (this time with 26 votes favoring to keep, and just two against), even as the site issued a formal apology regarding the joke. “I’ve been aware of their Consensus Track process all along but the first time I really found myself at odds with it was in 2014 when a similar controversy erupted over the article on Breasts—which eventually ended resoundingly in their favor,” Cooper told us of his move away from the Wookieepedia community. “[The administration team] soldiered onward, and I haven’t exactly hidden my opinion, but this weekend was the first time since then that anything really came to a head involving me personally. I knew their ‘active editor’ standard would keep me out of any further votes of significance so I largely just stopped thinking about it.”

Seven years later, the Breast page remains—now bifurcated with “Canon” and “Legends” tabs to detail sources from before and after Disney’s acquisition of Star Wars and its reboot of franchise continuity. The sparse “Canon” tab is headlined with an image of a bare-chested Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the “Legends” one a piece of art from the 2010 book Star Wars: Visions depicting Jedi Master Aayla Secura sleeping naked.

Even though voting on the matter was trending toward passing the name amendment, Cooper spoke out on social media to highlight the awareness of how major decisions in one of Star Wars’ largest online fan communities typically operated under layers of shadowed bureaucracy, not unlike something out of the franchise’s own Galactic Senate.

“Many people have quite validly raised eyebrows at the very idea that a human rights matter would be subject to a popular vote….even with several supporting votes struck the deadname ban was well on its way to passing,” Cooper said. “I do have to admit that the administration seems to have acted fully in accordance with their established rules; the problem is that 99% of Consensus Tracks are about extremely minor or esoteric matters, so those rules are able to creep in with no one outside the inner echelons ever noticing, and then when something actually important like this comes along, outsiders are understandably flummoxed at how lopsided the rules are, and how much weight the administration is able to throw around without technically breaking them.”

He continued, “I hate to equate something this inane to real-world voter suppression, but it’s as if the recent Georgia law [restricting certain voting rights] had been passed a year ago, and no one noticed until the day of the general election.”

Reaction to Eleven-ThirtyEight’s tweet was immediate, at Wookieepedia and in wider Star Wars circles. Votes supporting the decision to change the policy, as well as discussion around the controversial nature of the vote in the first place, flooded the page. Even prominent figures from the world of official Star Wars works began commenting on the vote, including writers Daniel José Older (currently working on Lucasfilm’s The High Republic publishing initiative) and E.K. Johnston (the writer of multiple Star Wars novels, including Ahsoka and the Padmé Amidala trilogy).

The increased attention was only compounded when Wookieepedia’s administrators stepped in to enforce the site’s voting rules even further, banning Cooper’s editorial account, as well as the accounts of four other editors—DrHolocron, Cwedin, AV-6R7, and Immi Thrax—for interacting with the Eleven-ThirtyEight tweet. Citing rules against the act of “Sockpuppeting” (the solicitation of votes from outside parties or the creation of alternate accounts to boost voting in a certain favor), Wookieepedia admins didn’t just ban users, but began retroactively striking votes they believed to have come from Eleven-ThirtyEight’s tweet—votes which were all in favor of updating the naming policy, making what was already a tight vote even tighter.

“Not a single thing that’s happened since I first tweeted about the Consensus Track has surprised me, with the possible exception of Fandom’s intervention,” Cooper said of Wookieepedia’s response to the vote. “Star Wars has put trans fans and allies through a lot over the last six months or so and there was a lot of frustrated energy out there in search of a winnable fight, and this was it. On the other side of the equation, from my earlier research, I knew very well how Wookieepedia’s head administrator responds to even mild confrontation, let alone the prospect of a very public defeat like this, so I fully expected them to make it worse for themselves once the ball was rolling—and they did.”

Throughout the backlash, Wookieepedia’s social presence remained as it usually did—tweeting about Star Wars media highlights and fandom jokes, even as fans in their mentions decried the voting process, and other fandom hubs began to formally decry the site’s position. TheForce.Net’s forums temporarily banned links to Wookieepedia content while the vote was ongoing, and even fellow fan sites like the Transformers franchise wiki TFWiki (not operated by Fandom, Inc.) released statements pushing back against the vote and Wookieepedia’s response to the situation.

But silence from Wookieepedia couldn’t stop the controversy reaching the site’s owner, Fandom. The company’s response was swift, a direct intervention that closed the vote and overruled Wookieepedia’s naming policy to protect discrimination against trans and non-binary people, citing a 2020 addition to the company’s own Terms of Use to ban transphobic content. “With the creation of our Community Safety team, we have an opportunity to lead on an evolving topic in society at large. That’s why we’ve been actively monitoring this conversation over the last week, including working with members of Wookieepedia’s administration knowing that there are a lot of opinions involved here,” a statement now attached to the vote’s Consensus Talk page from Fandom Director of Community Safety Tim Quievryn reads in part. “Since this supersedes local policies, this vote should be closed and policies should be updated to reflect the Terms of Use. The policy proposal here fits with our Terms of Use. Returning to the previous status quo (deferring to credits despite someone stating what their chosen name is) does not.”

In a statement provided to io9, Brandon Rhea, Fandom’s VP of Community said, “The vote on Wookieepedia was to update an outdated policy that de facto meant authors and artists were being deadnamed. Fandom has determined that, while it may not have been the intention, knowingly using a deadname in an article title is a violation of our Terms of Use. This is a global determination, meaning it applies to all wikis—including Wookieepedia. That means that the proposed policy change was in line with our Terms of Use, whereas if the vote failed then the wiki’s policies would not have been in compliance with the Terms of Use.”

In addition to the unprecedented intervention by Fandom, Quievryn also reinstated the editor accounts of Cooper and the others who had responded to his March 27 tweet. “These bans, which were issued by the Wookieepedia administration, are the result of a tweet that CooperTFN sent out (from @Eleven-ThirtyEight) and that the other four then interacted with,” Quievryn’s statement says. “It seems clear from the context of CooperTFN’s initial tweet and follow-ups that he believed he was making a good faith effort to encourage people to vote only if they were eligible to do so, not to recruit single-issue voters. We can assume that the others felt the same, especially since they were all editors in good standing—one of whom was even nominated to be April’s Wookieepedian of the Month. This is a hyper-charged situation, so we believe that those acting in good faith should be able to get a clean slate given that the vote is moot.”

For now then, it seems that the matter is settled. Pronovost’s Wookieepedia entry now identifies them with their real name, and utilizes their pronouns. Although Cooper’s Wookieepedia account has been unblocked, he said he’s unlikely to regularly contribute to the site, but is relieved that the vote was settled—albeit by Fandom’s intervention.

“It would have been satisfying to see the policy change pass in the normal way despite all the nonsense,” he said. “But Fandom’s TOU exist for a good reason and it’s probably much more important for all of us to see them take a stand like this and force the change rather than hope it went away on its own.”

As for Wookieepedia itself, the site has remained publicly silent. The site’s social media pages have not updated since March 28 on Twitter and March 4 on Facebook, respectively. When contacted by io9 multiple times for comment, the site’s administration team did not respond.

Fandom itself says its intervention, while unprecedented, came with the acknowledgment that its wikis are used to enforcing their own rules and policies. “We also understand that the community is going to take notice when there’s platform-level intervention,” Rhea’s statement to io9 continued. “We remain committed to working with the Wookieepedia community and appreciate that we will be able to have this discussion with the wider Fandom community now and in the future.”

But Cooper, in particular, believes more will need to change at Wookieepedia for real lessons about the existing culture there to be learned. “I honestly hate to say it but no one with real power at Wookieepedia will learn anything from this. Not everyone in the administration is a problem—even some on the other side of the vote I think are reasonable people who just need to get out of the bubble more,” Cooper concluded. “But as long as the head admin and a couple others aren’t either removed by Fandom, or driven to quit, I think the best-case scenario is an editing community that simply continues to reflect them less and less as time goes on.”

Fandom’s involvement then represents a step in the right direction for giving these communities official policies that are clear and respectful on how trans and non-binary people are credited for their work. But the internal reaction to the company’s blunt involvement in a community of fans, for better or worse, paints a far more troubling picture than the seemingly amicable outcome—and just how far all kinds of communities still have to come in how they treat the lives of fans from all backgrounds.

Update 6:45PM EST: A previous version of this article included a link to and quotations of comments purportedly made on Wookieepedia’s Discord server. We have removed them over concerns for their veracity.

Update 2, 7.45PM EST: This post has now also been updated to include commentary from Robin Pronovost.


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The Last Starfighter’s Potential Sequel Now Has a Sizzle Reel for Hollywood’s Consideration

A Last Starfighter sequel might be on the way.

A Last Starfighter sequel might be on the way.
Screenshot: Matt Allsopp/YouTube

Trailer FrenzyA special place to find the newest trailers for movies and TV shows you’re craving.

Fans of The Last Starfighter have long dreamed what a sequel to that movie would be. Today, they find out.

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Gary Whitta, writer of The Book of Eli and Rogue One, has been working with Last Starfighter writer Jonathan Betuel on bringing the 1984 classic back to life for years now. Today, he hopped on his Twitch stream to say the film is closer than it’s ever been to fruition. It’s “right on the one-yard line” he said, and he believes it will happen.

To help cross that line, though, Whitta also revealed the sizzle reel he, Betuel, concept artist Matt Allsopp, and composer Chris Tilton collaborated on to give people an idea of the movie they want. Whitta explained, as he’s said before, this wouldn’t be a straight remake of the original movie. It’s a sequel that keeps the original film in canon but passes the torch to a new generation, much like Star Wars: The Force Awakens did.

Here’s the sizzle reel for what they’ve called The Last Starfighters.

The trailer doesn’t tell us much but we do see there’s some new conflict, it goes back to Earth, we assume Alex Rogen is still around, and that he has to recruit some new Starfighters to join him in defending the galaxy. That’s purely speculation though.

Whitta didn’t reveal many actual details, though he did explain how he and Betuel teamed up, how concept artist Matt Allsopp (Rogue One) joined, and the sort of collaboration between original composer Craig Safan and Chris Tilton (Assassin’s Creed), who did the score here by adapting Safan’s original themes. You can listen to that on his Twitch feed.

The Last Starfighter is one of my favorite films ever and seeing it is my first memory as a human. Watching that reel brought back so much nostalgia and hope that one day I’ll finally get to see this movie. What did you think of it?

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