Jedi Justification #3 - Midichlorians are Magic!

The Tiny Side of the Force
The most difficult subject of justification to be offered up the Star Wars film franchise is the presence of the Midichlorians in Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.  While the opening salvo of Lucas’ war on his fans presented no end of reasons for even the most die-hard follower of the Saga to blanch, there was one little element that outshone a whiney would-be Vader, a Keyop-style Gungan, and a racial undertones that left audience cringing.  That was of course the revelation that the Force was in fact not an energy field that surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together but rather a prolific colony of microorganisms that cause the most beneficial infection in movie history.

The prequel trilogy suffers heavily from the huge span of years that separate its release dates from those of the original films.  Like siblings born decades apart they are children of decidedly different eras.  The original trilogy harkens back to rotary phones, tube televisions, and practical filmmaking technique while its little brother is of an age of cell phones, flat screen televisions, and characters, set pieces, and other elements on screen that never existed in the physical world.  

But it also takes its influence from a post-Star Trek The Next Generation era.  When I first encountered the Midichlorians on screen I felt that Michael Okuda had to be listed as one of the screenwriters!  This attempt to provide a scientific explanation to how and why the Force is possible reeked of TNG’s constant espousal of logical explanations for the seemingly impossible.  But with one major difference, Star Trek writers sought to make the technology more real, the Force is mysticism.  To explain away the power of the underpinnings of the religion of the Jedi by simply putting the Force under a microscope successfully took the teeth out of the Force in the way Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christiansen’s lackluster performances as Anakin Skywalker defanged the once menacing Darth Vader.

Now You See Them, Now You Don’t

With all of that established, how could I possibly find a way to reconcile myself with these pointless little microbes?  So pointless in fact that I have dubbed them “The Amazing Appearing/Disappearing Midichlorians”!  After such a heavy-handed introduction in Episode 1, with both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan marveling at the levels of the little Force-bugs in Anakin’s bloodstream, they exited the ongoing narrative as quickly and more effectively than the Japoor snippet gifted to Padme.  At least that found its way out of the vastly LucasFilm Archives long enough to make a cameo at Amidalla’s funeral in Episode 3! 

 The rather abrupt removal of so much as a passing mention of Midicholrians in two thirds of the prequels trilogy, while clearly a conceit to fans, becomes rather troublesome when it comes to justifying their existence in the first place.  While seemingly vital to the discovery of “the Chosen One”, they were remanded to a veritable oubliette of the Saga thereafter.  But fear not!  The Ever-Ticking Brain of JediCole has found the answer to this puzzling Star Wars conundrum – the late Qui-Gon Jinn.

As with all of the justifications I have made over the years, the answers always seem to present themselves within the body of the films themselves.  While I am often at odds with those steeped in the Expanded Universe, I do not need to cite disparate sources to make my case.  And in this particular instance I need look no further than Obi-Wan’s master.  It is really Qui-Gon who is at the forefront of the entire Midichlorian issue.  He is the one who explains the entire connection between the one-celled sentients and the Force.  He is the one who orders the blood test to check his hunch and the character who most often reminds us of their presence in the Star Wars universe.  But then of course Obi-Wan is seemingly complicit in all of this at first glance.  He does remark with some surprise that Anakin’s Midichorian count is higher event than that of Yoda after all.  But watch closely during Qui-Gon’s explanation of the Midichlorians and you will see a kind of dismissive expression cross his Padawan’s face.  Is Obi-Wan doubting his own master’s view of the Force?

I would suggest that yes, indeed he is subtly expressing a personal distaste for this particular view of the Jedi beliefs.  This, coupled with the fact that after Qui-Gon’s demise all mention of the Midichlorians seems to be excised from the Saga,  speaks volumes in justification of both their presence in, and abrupt disappearance from, this trilogy.  I would suggest that an order as large and venerable as the Jedi would easily have dissenting schools of thought emerge throughout its ranks.  According to Obi-Wan in his twilight years the Jedi had been a vital part of the life and times of the galaxy for thousands of years.  In that time a scholarly and thoughtful religious organization as the Jedi would have seen many factions emerge and disappear.  As they certainly embrace technology as well as the mysteries of the Force, there is no doubt that a great many Jedi devote their time and their brains to the study of all things.  In the course of such studies a remarkable corollary between the natural and mystical realms would have been identified. 

A Certain Point of View

It seems natural to assume that there could be a microorganism that occurs naturally in all sentient beings galaxy-wide.  The existence of such a phenomenon would have been fairly common knowledge, but it would take a concerted survey to reveal that those adept in the Force, and thereby ideal candidates for the Jedi order, have a greater concentration of these  microbes, dubbed Midichlorians, in their bloodstream.  It then becomes more a step than a leap of logic to connect these microscopic entities directly to the energy field that not only exists in the galaxy but which can be tapped by those adept at its control.  In time a faction of the more scientifically inclined Jedi would spearhead a movement that embraced the Midichlorians as the source of the Jedi’s power and as the messengers of the Force itself. 

This would be a view not shared by most of the Jedi.  Indeed there would be other factions who had their own approach to understanding the nature and power of the Force.  While there would be an overall belief system in common, each sub-faction of the Jedi would hold fast to their unique beliefs as well and likely share them at will with their brothers whether they cared to hear such views or not.  Such was the case with Qui-Gon, a Jedi already often at odds with the governing Council for his radical thoughts and deeds.  As a Jedi steeped in the belief that the Midichlorians were the key to understanding the Force, Anakin Skywalker’s alleged immaculate birth and scale-busting Midichlorian count would undoubtedly appear to him, and indeed any other Jedi who shared his beliefs, the very picture of the prophesied Chosen One.  And while his particular take on the Force may not have been in keeping with that of many on the Jedi Council, they were all no less impressed with the possibilities presented by the boy.

Gone Like Qui-Gon

As we know, Qui-Gon Jinn met his end at the hands (and double-bladed lightsaber) of Darth Maul in the curious power generator of Theed Castle.  While Obi-Wan Kenobi lost a friend and mentor, the Star Wars saga lost its most vocal proponent of Midichlorians.  While undoubtedly Qui-Gon was not alone in this belief, he was the only one of his faction to appear in the tales chronicled on screen.  So with his death, so died the open dialogue on the Midichlorians themselves.  Simply put, they did not disappear from the saga, they were simply never spoken of again.  This is supported further by Obi-Wan’s explanation of the Force to Anakin’s adult son many years after the death of his former master.  Clearly Obi-Wan always held fast to the more prevailing view that the Force is something beyond the understanding of man, yet within the reach of those who know how to tap into its power.  The elder Kenobi, like Vader himself during the battle of the first Death Star, could sense Luke’s connection to that energy field without the necessity of any lab work.

Qui-Gon Jinn’s comfortable folding of science and religion into his personal belief system may well have contributed to a previously undeveloped use of the Force as mentioned in passing by Yoda a the end of Episode 3, but that is the stuff of another Jedi Justification.  For now I will content myself with laying to rest the compelling issue of the arrival and equally inexplicable departure of the Midichlorians from the prequel saga.  While their presence in the Star Wars universe seemed a bit contrived, I have made peace with the little critters and can now welcome them as a part of the Saga. 

Look for the next Jedi Justifications in about a month when I tackle the tricky issue of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s seeming cop-out about his deceit regarding the secret of Darth Vader as Luke’s father.  And if you are troubled by any seeming inconsistencies within the on-screen Star Wars universe, please feel free to drop me a line here and I will apply my own “certain point of view” to bring you a reasonable justification.