Star Wars: Dark Disciple Author Remembers Christopher Lee

The fifth entry in the well oiled machine that is Lucasfilm and Disney’s canon line of adult Star Wars novels, Dark Disciple (releasing 7/7) is based on unproduced scripts for The Clone Wars animated series’ scrapped seventh (and possibly eighth) season, written by George Lucas’s daughter Katie and adapted to novel form by Christie Golden.

Dark Disciple is a swashbuckling adventure story starring fan favorite characters who first became notable in the now non-canon Expanded Universe, Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos. Christie Golden and Katie Lucas playfully inject new life into these characters while remaining faithful to their dark backstories, pairing them on a mission marked with romance, intrigue, and vengeance. At the center of it all is Count Dooku, the charismatic leader of the Confederate forces fighting the Republic in the Clone Wars.

Eerily, Count Dooku actor Christopher Lee passed away last month as the book went into first printing, and as such, Dark Disciple serves as a sort of unintentional swan song for the storied actor whose “villainous” career spanned everything from the classic Hammer horror films to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Katie and Christie perfectly captured the essence of what makes Christopher Lee such a great cinematic villain, balancing his elegant mannerisms with marks of cruelty in their characterization of Dooku.

I recently had the chance to chat with Christie Golden via email, who had nothing but praise for the late, great Sir Christopher Lee…

Given so much of this novel is based around his character, do you have any words for the late Sir Christopher Lee? 

Christopher Lee… wow, this one hurt.  Although honestly, our time in life is finite, and how marvelous to have lived an exciting and meaningful personal life, to have created timeless characters that will live on for those not even born yet to see them, and to be healthy and pursuing work one loves all the way up to one’s 90s.  When I got to write Dooku, I had that lovely, rich voice in my head, Christopher’s expressions and body language, to draw from.  There’s one scene I wrote where I had Dooku do Something Really Awful, something cruel and subtle and dripping with cultured malice, and I was reminded all over again that Christopher Lee was Dooku, and he was a total badass.  I’m so sad, but he lived his life magnificently, and we are all richer for it.  RIP.

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Christopher Lee (27 May 1922 – 7 June 2015) as Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002).

Having based this novel on unproduced Clone Wars scripts, how much did you get to play around with your own contributions? Did you make any changes to things such as character species and such for the novel?

Novelizations are interesting projects on the media spectrum. Unlike tie-in novels, they are assuredly direct adaptations of an existing project, not original stories, but they have a so much more room for the novelizer to take the story.  My goal was to remain faithful to the feel of the original as well as using a great amount of the dialogue as written, and keeping the key events.  I did get to introduce new characters and new arcs (the Mahran are mine, as is Lassa Rhayme), which is always fun.  There were also some references or lines that were brief in the scripts, but I thought warranted a much deeper treatment.  Also, some things work beautifully on the screen, but not so well in the written medium, and vice versa.  I’ve done this type of work before, and the decisions as to what to develop, what to leave as is, and what to rework are calls the author must make.

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Christie Golden.

You essentially took scripts aimed at the 13 year old boy and added adult themes to them, and the novel was previously marketed as being skewered to an adult audience, which was impossible on Cartoon Network. How did you know just how much innuendo and, eh, “full on gambits” to include?

Ha! You’d be a little surprised at how much of that was actually in the scripts.  A lot of the flirting was already there, including the term”full-on gambit.” What I got to do was bring the potential at least of a physical consummation of a very profound passion. I strove to leave exactly how far things went up to the individual reader, but this is obviously something deep and strong, not a mild flirtation.  It’s a fine line to walk, and there was a bit of back and forth at how much was appropriate to spell out directly. I hoped to capture the intensity of their connection without anything explicit.

How different was it writing Dark Disciple than your earlier, pre Canon works, now with the Lucasfilm Story Group in place? Did you get to meet with Katie Lucas and Dave Filoni/The Clone Wars team?

Alas, that was not to be!  I had a few conference calls with the usual suspects (Shelly Shapiro, Jen Heddle, Pablo Hidalgo), and there were definitely things we made sure Dave Filoni was on board with.  Via email, he often answered questions or offered his take on how to work something differently.  I did have the great pleasure of meeting him at Celebration, and was so pleased to hear how much he (and others at Lucasfilm) had enjoyed my treatment of their work.

In “Dark Disciple” you bring the film canon version of Quinlan Vos this much closer to his Legends counterpart. How much did you draw from the original source material? Some liken the new Star Wars continuity to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which mixes and matches aspects of the original source material into something new.

Since we were doing a reboot of canon, I wanted to make sure that everything I drew from was actually there, in canon form. I really wanted this story to be pure canon, so I actually tried not to read up on what had happened in the Legends universe. As you say, it’s obvious that the goal was to bring in some of that Legends “feel” to Vos. Many readers had expressed concern that Vos was sort of a “surfer dude” in TCW, but let’s remember, that was only one episode.  And while that playful aspect is certainly a key part of his personality in Dark Disciple,  it was clear to me as I read the scripts that the goal was to take him to some very dark places.

The initial flirtations between Ventress and Vos are similar to that of Han and Leia, yet their relationship really takes on its own warped identity. How did you approach this relationship when you were filling in the nuances that were obviously absent in the original TV scripts?

I was so fortunate to be tapped for this project as it really played to my strengths: character, dialogue, and that whole “what makes good people go bad” thing that, along with the “triumph of the human spirit,” is a theme I am constantly wanting to explore.  I watched and rewatched the Ventress episodes till I knew her very deeply–I could “see” all her reactions, hear her gravelly but silky voice, and anticipate her body language.  With Vos, I watched “Hunt for Ziro” and also paid close attention to the animatics of the first four episodes I was given.  I felt they really had chemistry and it was easy to sort of fall in step beside them.

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Ventress, with her new yellow lightsaber, in an unproduced episode of The Clone Wars.

There are certain changes to characters that happen in this novel. If this would have been adapted as part of the television show, would thee changes have been the new status quo for a period of time? Did you condense a story arc that was broken up over the course of a season or two with “Dark Disciple”?

There were indications of time passing between certain episodes, so I am fairly certain this was intended to be a long-playing arc that interspersed with other storylines.

Are there any canon subjects in the Star Wars universe you’d like to take on in the future with Dark Disciple ready for release?

I had a dream come true when I met Mark Hamill at Celebration. I had the chance to tell him I had been 13 in 1977 and grew up to write SWs books, and that his performance in the trilogy truly changed my life and set me on my path.  He asked if I were still writing, obviously addressing the new canon.  I was delighted to reply “yes,” So honestly?  Anything to do with Luke Skywalker makes me go back to the summer of ’77 and would make me outrageously happy and humbled.