Jedi Justifications #2 - Lightsaber Enlightenment

For this installment of Jedi Justifications (formerly Justification Revisited) I thought it would be nice to revisit the “lost episode” of Justify That (from VaderCast) and expand upon it with a related justification that came to me only recently.  I realize that there is undoubtedly no shortage of Expanded Universe reference to lightsabers, their origins, manufacture, significance of color, and indeed all minutia. So I will again remind readers that the purpose of this series of articles is to revisit my personal justifications and explanations of all things Star Wars.  Look at what follows with an eye unguided by anyone else’s work.  This is simply my take on things which you may embrace or reject as you see fit.

Not Your Father’s Lightsaber

As the introduction suggested, this edition of Jedi Justifications will explore a lightsaber theme.  But not just any lightsaber.  The most unique model in the entire Star Wars saga, that of Mace Windu.  Mace carried the only lightsaber seen in the pair of trilogies that has a purple blade.  Both Ben and Luke (and his father before him) had blue blades on their sabers and Darth Vader carried the red-bladed variety in Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.  With the necessity of replacing his lost saber, Luke introduced audiences to the green blade option. 

While yellow and other colors would appear manifest in toys and comic books, on screen there were never more than these three colors, colors that were cemented into the canon of the Star Wars universe with Episode 1.  Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan showcased green and blue blades, those associated previously with Jedi while Darth Maul favored the traditional Sith red.  Then came Attack of the Clones and with it a fourth color of lightsaber blade, purple!

Look at Me!

It is easy to imagine that George Lucas planned every aspect of the saga decades in advance of actual production of any given chapter.  That is until you begin to read more and more about how each film went from core concept and rough screenplay to the final edited film.  Han Solo was once to have been a hideous bipedal amphibian, Darth Vader was to have a holiday home on a lava planet where he would forlornly feed wild gargoyles like he was an old man tossing crumbs to pigeons in the park, and Yoda looked suspiciously like the Travelocity Roaming Gnome! 

And in that same vein, Mace Windu was not originally intended to have a purple lightsaber.  The clearest indication of this is the "Sneak Preview" action figure of Mace that was produced before the release of The Phantom Menace, as well as the one produced after the film hit theatres.  In both cases the Jedi Master's lightsaber accessory had a blue blade.  After Episode 2, the more familiar purple blade began to appear in toys because the color of his saber's blade had been revealed at last. 

From a production design standpoint the new color was introduced at Samuel L. Jackson's bequest.  Knowing he would appear in crowded scenes filled with lightsaber wielding Jedi Knights, Jackson wanted to stand out on screen.  To that end he requested the unique blade type which certainly makes it obvious where Mace is should he be in any given shot.  While this explains the origins of the blade from a behind the scenes standpoint, it does not do so within the context of the storyline itself.   

There Can be Only One

To explain the presence of the purple lightsaber I found my answers within what was presented on screen.  While at first glance the venerable Yoda would seem to sit at the had of the Jedi Council.  However, if you watch closely there is strong evidence that despite his stature in the Jedi Order, he is not in fact their leader.  That honor goes to none other than Mace Windu (rather appropriate since he was the first character named by Lucas, then as Mace Windy, when he began to develop what would become Star Wars).

When I have shared this observation with Star Wars fans I have been met with raised eyebrows or confused looks.  But upon closer examination it is easy to see how I arrived at this conclusion.  In Episode 1 for example, Mace dominates the Jedi Council meeting on the fate of Anakin Skywalker.  Even the great Yoda defers to Windu as if he is a subordinate.  Prior to Episode 1 it would have been an easy thing to imagine that Yoda was the most powerful and respected member of the Jedi Order.  He was, after all, one of two survivors who still eluded Vader and the Empire.  For that reason I believe it is difficult for most to look upon Mace Windu as the head of the council, but the evidence is certainly there.  Windu has a commanding presence in the Council chambers in all of the prequels, usually having the last word in all decisions.

So, establishing Windu’s station it is then a short leap of logic to explain his unique lightsaber.  The purple-bladed saber is one of a kind, and not just on screen.  Mace Windu carries the saber of his office as head of the Jedi Council.  It was carried by his predecessor and would have been handed off to whoever took his place had the demise of the Jedi not transpired.  Only one such saber was ever produced and solely for the purpose of being wielded by the Jedi who leads their Council.

Mace likely carried either a blue or green saber before rising to the level of Head of the Jedi Council and retired that model during his tenure.  Even in battle the ceremonial saber is put into action as it is practical as well as ornamental. 

This is my justification for Mace Windu’s lightsaber. Again, I am not steeped in the non-film history of the lightsaber or the crystals involved in their production.  I have not researched what others have written on the significance of purple versus red, blue, or green blades.  Nor do I care to.  The lightsaber justification is the one that tends to be the most hotly debated by those who have read a tremendous amount of the Expanded Universe material.  And so I reiterate that this, like all of my justifications, is based solely on what is presented on screen.