This week’s episode picks up where we left off. The Jedi younglings have gathered the crystals for their lightsabers and are with Ahsoka and the droid lightsaber instructor Huyang (guest star David Tennant, the 10th Doctor from Doctor Who) on board a Jedi cruiser, learning how to create their own lightsabers. The pirate Hondo Ohnaka has somehow learned the location of the younglings and leads a band to capture the ship and claim the crystals for himself, as they are “priceless” on the black market. Ahsoka, Huyang, and the younglings fight back, with Ahsoka getting most of the pirates off of the ship and into the airlock. She gives the order for the younglings to pilot the ship away from the pirates and break the seal between ships. They do and as the air is being sucked out into space, Ahsoka is knocked into the pirates’ clutches by one last pirate that she hadn’t accounted for. The younglings, thinking Ahsoka is on board, jump to hyperspace, leaving her at the mercy of Hondo and his crew.
Overall, I thought this was another good episode. Again, they deepen the cinematic version of Jedi history and philosophy by introducing Huyang, who is wonderfully voiced by Tennant. At first, when it was announced that he was guest-starring, the Doctor Who fan in me was excited, as Tennant is my favorite Doctor. But then, once it sunk in that he’d be playing a droid who builds lightsabers, I started to feel less thrilled by the prospect. I want the former Doctor to be a badass in whatever he’s doing, but even if he’s much more of a mentor character here, I ended up liking Huyang and Tennant’s performance more than I thought I would. I’ve read in several reviews that he’s like the Harry Potter franchise’s Olivander the wandmaker, and that’s an apt description (sidenote: Tennant was also in the fourth Potter flick as Barty Crouch Jr.). Luckily, the acting gravitas that Mr. Tennant brings along with him elevates the character of Huyang from being a simple clone of Olivander and makes him into his own being.
Also, this episode again struck me with how much I’m starting to dig Ahsoka as a character. The younglings reminded me of how she was portrayed in earlier seasons and showed how much she has grown in the 4+ years this show has been airing. In fact, I’m at the point where I’m ready for her to be promoted to Jedi Knight and star in her own adventures sans Anakin and Obi-Wan from now on (though, I’d still like to see them on the show too). I’m invested in her enough and believe she’s a strong enough character that she could do it. Yet, Skywalker’s lack of a Master title in Revenge of the Sith (and the Council’s reluctance to assign it to him) really leads me to believe we won’t be getting to that point. Ahsoka’s unrevealed fate is starting to drive me crazy as a fan because I’ve reached that point where I genuinely want to know the specifics (at the start of the series, I just assumed she’d die at some point and left it at that).
I did, however, have a few nitpicks with the episode. First and foremost, it was aired out of chronological order, which Lucasfilm had said they were getting away from. In Hondo’s appearance in the season premiere, “Revival,” he makes mention of the Separatists shutting down his pirating operations, and based on the details that leaked about this arc from the screening at Celebration VI, we’re going to see that happen sometime in the next couple of episodes. Because of the schedule shuffling, his portrayal is kind of out of line with how we saw him in “Revival” and the Onderon arc, and much more akin to Season 2’s “Bounty Hunters” (he even wields an electrostaff again). He’s a pirate who hasn’t yet been knocked off his pedestal by Count Dooku, and I think that casual viewers may be thrown off by that a bit.
The other small thing that bothered me was brought up by one of my friends: these are Jedi younglings, who have been raised in the Jedi Temple since not long after birth. By this point, there are a few basics they should have down, such as self-defense and martial arts skills. In the premiere The Clone Wars movie, we’re introduced to Ahsoka, and it’s mentioned more than once that she’s not much more than a youngling. Yet, in that film, it’s obvious that she has basic fighting skills and that it’s the more refined characteristics of the Jedi that she lacks and will learn in her apprenticeship under Anakin. And while it’s hard to place the younglings’ ages in this arc, they seem at least somewhat close to Ahsoka’s age in the movie, so their underdeveloped combat abilities come across as a bit odd. Especially when, early on in this episode, youngling Petro demonstrates that he’s at least proficient with a lightsaber. It reminds me of a problem that I had early on in the series, where the Jedi are only as strong as the show’s staff want them to be based on the scenario at hand, as opposed to being constant in their abilities and powers.
And though those two things bothered me, they weren’t so bad as to ruin my enjoyment of “A Test of Strength.” The writing on this Young Jedi arc is a lot tighter than that on the previous Onderon arc and is actually making for a better story. I get why they didn’t air it sooner — it is a lot lighter and more kid-focused than most episodes of the show, which could have been off-putting for older fans. Still, I’m an older fan, and I’m digging it as it’s successfully connecting to the kid in me that first became a Star Wars fan. Between that and this episode’s cliffhanger ending, I cannot wait for the next installment, which wasn’t something I could say when we were on Onderon.