Fellow fans of the original Star Tours at Disney’s MGM Studios, rejoice! Our favorite old motion simulator got a big, big shout-out in an episode that continues Clone Wars’ impressive winning streak. For my Republic credits, every single episode this season has been a hit. No narrative flab, no filler, just good old solid storytelling. But “A Sunny Day in the Void,” scripted by yarnmaster Brent Friedman, went beyond just entertaining us. This was a truly experimental installment, with supervising director Dave Filoni paying tribute to one of his artistic inspirations, French comics artist Jean Giraud, a.k.a Mœbius.
Other than Tintin creator Hergé, Mœbius, who died this March at the age of 73, may be the best known artist of French/Belgian comics, or bandes dessinées (literally “drawn strips”). He got his start primarily drawing Westerns, like the classic Blueberry series, which serves as a kind of comic strip analogue to Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah’s gritty meta-Westerns. Later on he’d branch out into sci-fi and his series The Incal, co-authored with El Topo director Alejandro Jodorowski, is a foundation text of what we’ve come to know as the dystopian future cityscape, elements of which made their way into concept art he drew and painted for the films Alien and Tron. He was also tapped by George Lucas to contribute designs to Willow and The Empire Strikes Back, where his concept for the Imperial probe droid made it into the film. Mœbius recognized that hyper-detail can be a stepping stone toward surrealism, and though there’s often a stark minimalism in his compositions, his is a textured world simultaneously familiar and alien. Those contrasts are exactly what Filoni & Co. captured in “A Sunny Day in the Void,” with their realization of a bleakly sunny—or sunnily bleak—desert wasteland planet.
But the droids had to get there first! Our heroic, though height-challenged, Col. Gascon (voice magnificently by Stephen Stanton) was puffing out his chest in pride over his successful mission to recover the Separatist encryption module from that Seppie dreadnaught. All that was left was to fly back to the Republic. What little respect he did decide to grant the droids at the conclusion of “Secret Weapons” had seemed to evaporate, however. “How long until my command center is operational again?” he asked, blithely ignoring the fact that his command center, BZ, had been pretty well fried. Gascon just can’t seem to recognize the droids as more than hardware. When Artoo tootled in BZ’s defense, I assume he said, “His name is BZ and he’s a person!”