Hannah Scribbles

TMI: The Problem of Midi-chlorians in Star Wars

In Sci-Fi on March 6, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Midi-chlorians: the unwanted answer to an unasked question.

Star Wars is basically a fantasy movie set in space. The original series doesn’t attempt to explain the science behind its world-building. The trilogy’s tone implied a mysticism surrounding Jedi Knights, robed warrior-monks who protected the balance of good and evil. People shot lightning from their fingertips.  Lightsabers just worked. The Force remained mysterious.

use the force, star wars use the force, Star Wars is full of fantasy tropes. Beneath the soft sci-fi trappings, it is the story of a young hero called to a task he isn’t ready for. Once he undertakes his quest to save the damsel in distress, he is pulled into the greater struggle of good versus evil and must “come into his own” to defeat the dark lord.

And that’s fine by me. In fact, the fantasy themes within the original Star Wars trilogy added grandiosity to the space saga by implying a spiritual element that carried on after death. True Jedi Masters were at peace with mortality because they understood the physical world as they knew it was impermanent. Unexplained, The Force gave larger meaning to Darth Vader’s redemption story. There was a bigger picture behind Luke’s training and the deaths of Obi-Wan and Yoda.

If I could choose one thing wrong with the prequel trilogy – besides Jar Jar Binks – it’s midi-chlorians. Midi-chlorians are intelligent microbes living symbiotically within the cells of all living things. High enough levels of the microbes allow people to sense the energy field (commonly known as the Force) in the same way that some animals see additional wavelengths on the color spectrum. Therefore, a person’s midi-chlorian count determines whether they are Force sensitive.

midi-chlorians, star wars midichlorians, what are midichlorians,Hard science fiction fans probably cheered at revelation. George Lucas probably cheered, too. After all, midi-chlorians opened room for entire novels in the Expanded Universe book series, revealing that Darth Plagueis’ experiments with the microscopic organisms are indirectly responsible for Anakin Skywalker’s birth.

Anakin Skywalker isn’t the Chosen One as we’d thought for so many years. He’s a case of science turning on its master. Anakin is the poster child for human experiments gone awry – the Sith equivalent of t-virus or Skynet.

Anakin’s origins are cool in their own right, but the franchise’s science-fantasy roots made it popular.  I think the Midi-chlorian Revelation sabotages the source material. It bleeds the Star Wars trilogy drier than Tatooine – and it’s hard to beat a planet where people have to actively harvest moisture from the atmosphere to survive.  


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