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Clive A. Smith
Long John Baldry,
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Artoo, Threepio and a broken down android are traded into the hands of young miner Jann Tosh. The android turns out to be an alien with amnesia and a price on his head. It is in fact Mon Julpa, prince of Tammuz-an, who has been put in this predicament by the power hungry vizier Zatec-Cha. Jann, the droids, and a female freight pilot named Jessica Meade help Julpa claim his throne, battle the Pirates of Tarnoonga and settle a dispute with Tammuz-an clan leader Lord Toda. Written by
First released on VHS in 1996 to cash in on the final appearance of the original trilogy in it's non special edition form the year before, "The Pirates and the Prince" features four out of five episode from the Droids cartoon making up the 'Mon Julpa' story arc (episodes 5-8). The cartoon got the 'special edition' treatment, with a brand new score by Marco D'Ambrosio, a little re-editing and a couple of new lines to make the episodes mesh together a bit better. The fifth and final episode in this cycle, Coby and the Starhunters, has yet to be released, though admittedly the story has little to do with the previous four.
Lucasfilm head of marketing and merchandising collector Steve Sansweet has gone on record to say that George Lucas oversaw this release personally, because the Julpa story happened to be his favorite. I always thought 'the Maker' would have preferred the 'Trigo One' story (epsiodes 1-4) as it concerns racing. However, I could be wrong, as many elements from this mid-eighties cartoon managed to find their way into the Star Wars prequels. For example, the story begins at Doodnik's Cafe, a precursor to Dex's Diner from Episode II. Doodnik and Dex even share the same amount of arms. Also, a waitress droid can be seen dancing with an old prospector (or perhaps it's a robo-hooker). Later on, Threepio gets to drive a Wheel-Bike twenty years (Earth time) before General Grievous did in Episode III (altough this version looks more rubbery and less threatening). Finally, we are introduced to the Bog moon of Bogden, mentioned by name in Attack of the Clones. The original trilogy is also represented by a cameo performances from the Max Rebo Band, and IG-99 (his only speaking part) and some escapades reminiscent of A New Hope (Threepio mistakingly thinks his master has kicked the bucket, characters give conflicting orders as they speed towards closing blast doors and at one point hero Jann Tosh fires one measly round from a quad laser cannon.
And then there is the controversial appearance of the A-Wing and B-Wing fighters. One must remember that this Saturday morning Cartoon came out at the time when Kenner's Star Wars Toy line was drying up, and was basically one last chance to sell toys. Therefore, a lot of post-Jedi vehicles crop up in the series, including the B-Wing, the Tatooine Skiff and several 'Mini-Rigs' (Desert Sail Skiff, Sand Skimmer & Imperial Sniper). Unfortunately, their main contribution to the proceedings is during an unbelievably lame and violence free chase sequence in which all the participants keeps tossing about the Royal Sceptre. From the 'Droids' own toy-line, the A-wing and Side Gunner are featured. For some reason this last one is only briefly spotted in the background, but the A-Wing appears in three out of four episodes (changing size all the time and transforming into a two-seater at one point). Now, according to West End Games' Galaxy Guides, which started coming out around 1989 and soon became the standard reference material for the complete Star Wars universe, both the A- and B-wings were not designed until just before the events of Return of the Jedi (about 18 years after this series). However, seeing as the Galaxy Guide writers simply chose to ignore the events from the Droids & Ewoks series (as well as the Star Wars Radio Drama), I have no objection to referring to Jann Tosh's vehicle as an A-Wing.
As for the changes made for the 1996 video and 2004 DVD release, I must conclude that even though the score is not much of an improvement, at least this time Sy Snootles gets to perform an actual song, instead of warbling along in Huttesse to a pre-recorded soundtrack. As mentioned before, some dialog has been changed/added for each episode to better lead into the next. While the first installment had the character of Uncle Gundy unconvincingly dubbed by a totally different voice, the other two feature much better incorporated lines by the character of Mon Julpa. I'm not totally sure if it's the original voice actor performing these extra lines, but is certainly sounds like him. In addition, the coda's for these three episodes are cut short. From the first episode (The Lost Prince) only a few seconds are cut, but the second (The New King) and third (The Pirates of Tarnoonga) are both missing an entire scene. One involved C-3P0 and R2-D2 talking about their newly received medals, the other saw them sharing an oil bath and playing with toy Bantha's. Nevertheless, these omissions and the added dialog do serve to make the story into a consistent whole, giving it more of a 'feature film' feeling than 'Treasure of the Hidden Planet', which by comparison seems to have been more hastily put together to be added for the DVD release.
7 out of 10
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