REVIEW: “Star Wars – Dooku: Jedi Lost” by Cavan Scott

dookuI haven’t read a single Star Wars novel since 2016’s Bloodlines (which was genuinely one of the best Star Wars stories, in general, and should be read by all Star Wars fans). It’s not that I don’t have any interest in them, although I did find it a little frustrating that so many of them were being published in the eras of the Prequel Trilogy and the Original Trilogy instead of during the era I was more interested in reading about – the Sequel Trilogy. It’s just that I didn’t really have the time to read these books that might get invalidated in a few years by another canon overhaul alongside all the other books I wanted to read. So, many Star Wars books fell by the wayside. But when I heard about Dooku: Jedi Lost, I was immediately interested. I love audio dramas and I have really enjoyed Cavan Scott’s work on various Doctor Who titles, so I was definitely intrigued. Unfortunately, having read the script and listened to the audio drama, Dooku: Jedi Lost feels more like a lost opportunity than a truly good audio drama. It’s got a good plot but the story doesn’t work well in this medium. (Spoilers follow!)

Star Wars – Dooku: Jedi Lost (by Cavan Scott)
Darth Tyranus. Count of Serenno. Leader of the Separatists. A red saber, unsheathed in the dark. But who was he before he became the right hand of the Sith? As Dooku courts a new apprentice, the hidden truth of the Sith Lord’s past begins to come to light.

Dooku’s life began as one of privilege—born within the stony walls of his family’s estate, orbited by the Funeral Moon where the bones of his ancestors lie interred. But soon, his Jedi abilities are recognized, and he is taken from his home to be trained in the ways of the Force by the legendary Master Yoda.

As he hones his power, Dooku rises through the ranks, befriending fellow Jedi Sifo-Dyas and taking a Padawan of his own, the promising Qui-Gon Jinn—and tries to forget the life that he once led. But he finds himself drawn by a strange fascination with the Jedi Master Lene Kostana, and the mission she undertakes for the Order: finding and studying ancient relics of the Sith, in preparation for the eventual return of the deadliest enemies the Jedi have ever faced.

Caught between the world of the Jedi, the ancient responsibilities of his lost home, and the alluring power of the relics, Dooku struggles to stay in the light—even as the darkness begins to fall.

I’m not sure an audio drama of this length (roughly six hours) was the right format to tell this story. Audio dramas are great for a lot of different kinds of stories, but I’m not sure a story that is as complex as this one is or that covers as much time as this one does is really the right fit for an audio drama. In fact, I think Dooku: Jedi Lost would probably have been better suited as a novel. What Cavan Scott has written here is often very good, it’s just that the narrative doesn’t have the space it desperately needs to breathe. The pacing is all over the place, alternating between spending way too much time on a scene, speeding through other scenes, or jumping forward in time by an unknown amount of years. So much is crammed into these six hours that the narrative ends up lacking any true forward momentum because it has to keep bouncing back and forth between things to try and tie them all together and it just doesn’t quite work as well as it should.

In Dooku: Jedi Lost, there are two narrative threads happening at the same time: Ventress has been sent on a quest to find and rescue Dooku’s sister and goes on an emotional journey as she decides whether to trust Dooku as her Master or not; then there’s the narrative of Dooku’s rise and fall from the Jedi Order, told to the audience via various holocoms and diaries that Ventress finds throughout her journey. And it’s this structure that causes the bulk of the story’s problems. We are constantly jumping back and forth between the two threads, robbing either of them from really building any forward momentum. Honestly, I remain completely unsure why Asajj Ventress needed to be in this story at all. Scott tries to tie the story of Dooku’s past and his doubts about the Jedi Council with the story of Ventress’s doubts about him, but the connection never quite materializes. If anything, it just detracts from the interesting things we’re learning about Dooku because nothing Ventress does in the story is all that interesting. While I can see what Scott is trying to do by tying these stories together, I don’t think it ever quite worked.

I wonder if this story would have worked better as a novel. Perhaps having the Ventress stuff as a prologue, epilogue, and interludes and spending the vast majority of the rest of the time on Dooku’s backstory, told with little interruption, might have been a better route to take for this story. As it is, it feels like a story that’s not really meant for an audio drama format. While audio dramas can totally be complex and nonlinear and all of that, I feel like the nonlinear aspect hurt this story. It’s hard to get invested in what’s going on when the next scene jumps forward an indeterminate amount of time. At no point is it ever clear when any of Dooku’s flashback scenes are happening in relation to the “present” storyline (IE: we have no idea how many years before the Clone Wars any of Dooku’s flashbacks are set) so it’s extremely difficult to track where we are in Dooku’s life. When, exactly, did he leave the Jedi Order? Unclear. He’s old, but how old is he in relation to how old he is during the Clone Wars? We have no idea. These frequent time jumps make tracking Dooku’s development over the years difficult because we don’t really get to see how he develops. He goes through an event and then… it’s years later and he’s already changed and then he goes through another event. Lather, rinse, repeat. I feel like a fairly-lengthy book might have been able to balance all of this a bit better, giving us time to properly see how these events in Dooku’s life shaped him while still covering a lot of ground. Audio dramas just don’t quite work for stories like that.

To be fair, there is a lot about Dooku: Jedi Lost that’s good. Like I said, a lot of what Scott wrote about Dooku and his relationship with the Jedi Council is immensely interesting. I’ve always found the Jedi’s philosophy to be extremely flawed, bordering on utterly ridiculous – and that’s a view that Scott seems to share throughout this story. Here we see just how borderline-immoral the Jedi’s views are as they choose multiple times not to help planets in need so they can keep up their totally neutral appearances. And every time, their noninterference blows up in their faces and results in these planets suffering massive amounts of destruction and loss of life. In this context, it’s completely believable that Dooku would grow more and more jaded with the Jedi Order – anyone with half a shred of empathy would. So, getting to see a story where the Jedi’s viewpoint is thoroughly critiqued proves extremely entertaining.

I’ve always thought that Dooku was less of a true antagonist and more of an antihero, in a way. Yes, in the prequels and Clone Wars TV show, he’s certainly depicted as a villain but that’s because we’re seeing him at a point in his story where he’s become so fed up with the nonsense spouted by the Jedi and the Republic that he’s turned to actively rebelling against them. It’s really interesting getting a good glimpse at what led up to those events. Seeing a Dooku who struggles, much like Anakin did, with distancing himself from his family and his emotions is really interesting. It’s nice to get to see a character like Dooku really struggling with all of that in a way we were unable to see Anakin do in the films. The story that Scott spins makes it extraordinarily understandable why Dooku might leave the Jedi and how he might turn into the Sith Lord we know him as. It’s a really intriguing character study – I just wish more of the story focused on that.

As for the actual production of the audio drama, it’s fairly well done though the are some weird choices that detract from the experience a bit and seem emblematic of a first attempt at breaking into the format. There is a lot of narration in this production. Sometimes it works (listening to Dooku narrate his own holo-diary, the same way Ventress would be listening to it, works very well – especially with the echo effect used on his voice) and sometimes it really doesn’t (it’s incredibly difficult to tell when Ventress is narrating and when she’s actually speaking in a scene because there was no effect used on her voice to differentiate and the actress’s performance is exactly the same in both scenarios.) This kind of thing just feels like the mistakes of a first attempt at an audio drama and would certainly be ironed out in future audio dramas but it was something I noticed and thought worth bringing up.

Speaking of actors, the acting in this is kinda weird. While everybody does a very solid job, several of the actors don’t sound like the characters they’re playing. This is most notable in Euan Morton’s performance as Dooku. Morton doesn’t sound anything like Count Dooku. At all. I understand you wouldn’t want to have an actor merely imitating Sir Christopher Lee’s voice, but Morton sounds so unlike Lee that it’s distracting. The Clone Wars cartoon managed to find a nice balance between the actor bringing their own style to the role while still sounding like the character. In an audiobook, this kind of performance would be fine but in an audio drama, it’s incredibly distracting. Not to say that Morton doesn’t do a good job, because he does, it’s just that his voice pulled me right out of the story. The whole cast does a great job, and most of them do sound like their characters, so that’s good. It just seems to me that in a story about Count Dooku, you might want to ensure you get Dooku’s voice right.

At the end of the day, I wouldn’t say that Dooku: Jedi Lost is bad – because it’s not. It feels like a bit of a missed opportunity, trying to cram a story that clearly would have better fit the constraints of a novel into a medium that isn’t built for such a vast, era-spanning tale. While the frequent jumps in time and the bouncing between Dooku’s and Ventress’s storylines never quite works, a lot of what actually happens is very interesting. It’s nice to finally have a true glimpse into Dooku’s past, allowing us the chance to understand what led him to become the man we know him as in the films. Scott excels at bringing us right into Dooku’s mindset throughout his life and it’s an utter joy to witness. While I can see what Scott was going for by tying Dooku and Ventress’s stories together, I don’t think it ever quite worked the way he was hoping it would. Still, it’s not bad. The audio drama itself is a great first attempt at bringing Star Wars in the format and I’d hope that Lucasfilm would continue to experiment with this medium – just, maybe using stories that are better fitted for it. For a first attempt, this wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t the best way to tell this story and it never quite lands as well as it should.

3 out of 5 wands.

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