***This is a review of the Star Wars Forces of Destiny episode, “Beasts of Echo Base.” There will be spoilers.***
The latest episode of Star Wars Forces of Destiny, “Beasts of Echo Base,” shifts focus back to Princess Leia during the time the Rebellion spent on the ice planet of Hoth during the events of The Empire Strikes Back. (Click here to watch this episode on Disney’s YouTube channel now.)
The episode opens as Leia and R2-D2 are scouring the base looking for Chewbacca. He was thought to be somewhere digging out corridors, but no one has seen him. It’s then that Leia hears the undeniable sounds of a Wookiee coming forth from one of the corridors. Leia and Artoo decide to investigate.
As they progress through the corridor, the Wookiee sounds continue and Leia is sure it has to be Chewie. The corridor opens up into a larger cavern, much bigger than Leia anticipated, and the sounds echo throughout.
As they venture forward, Leia’s light lands on Chewie half-hidden by a column of ice. Initially she thinks he’s scared to come out from his hiding spot. Then she realizes they have a bigger problem on their hands. Chewie is being held by a sleeping wampa, one of the creatures that attacks Luke Skywalker while he’s out on patrol with his tauntaun. As brave and powerful as Chewbacca is, he looks really nervous. This wampa is easily twice the size of Chewie, if not more.
The Rebels of Echo Base have not had any experiences with wampas yet, so Leia has no idea what the creature could be. Just then, with his usual perfect timing, C-3PO can be heard coming over communication device. Leia hurries to shut the device down, but it’s too late — the wampa is awake. Its guard is let down enough so Chewie is able to escape, but that only infuriates the giant.
Leia orders Chewie and R2-D2 to go back and seal the door to the corridor. The wampa must not get onto the base! Leia tries desperately to distract the creature.
The wampa chases Leia around the cavern, knocking her lamp away. Leia knows she has to get out of there, so she heads back to the entrance where Chewie and Artoo are trying to get to door working properly. That door is the only thing keeping the base safe from the rampaging creature. Leia reaches the door, jumps through to safety, and yells for Chewie to close it behind her.
In true Star Wars tradition, the controls won’t work. With the creature just steps away, Artoo comes to the rescue and gets the door functioning again. Just in time, too, as the door slams right in the wampa’s face.
Leia’s rescue of Chewie earns her a big Wookiee hug, and the trio breathes a sigh of relief.
“Beasts of Echo Base” clearly calls back to an idea for The Empire Strikes Back that was ultimately abandoned. There was to be a scene where Wampas did make it into the base, but were contained to a certain area with a sign on the door warning people away. When the Imperials stormed the base, the warning sign was removed as Han, Leia, Chewie, and C-3PO made their escape in the hope that some unlucky stormtroopers would open the door in search of Rebels. Instead, they’d meet a grisly fate. Proof again that no ideas are ever truly tossed away at Lucasfilm. If something can be of service to the story later, it could see the light of day.
In this case, one of those ideas served up an exciting story and a great showcase for Princess Leia. The “Beasts of Echo Base” was a big improvement over the previous Leia-centric episode, “Ewok Escape.” I felt Leia took more of a backseat role to Wicket in that episode, but here she is, front and center, displaying all the fearlessness we expect from her character. It was amazing.
I’m still pleased with the animation style, and I loved the colors used for Echo Base. The icy shades of blue left me with a cool feeling, and it contrasted nicely with the warmer tones used for Leia and Chewie. Shelby Young’s voice work as Leia captured the tone of the character and I bought into her performance completely. Chewie and Artoo looked adorable — I wanted to hug the two of them — and the wampa was suitably scary. No hugs for him.
On the whole, I’m really enjoying these shorts. Much more than I expected to, if I’m being honest. And I am.
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