How Do You Solve a Problem Like Saba Sebatyne?

So after threatening promising to do this for a few weeks, I’ve finished re-reading “Fate of the Jedi” and am ready to comment on this specific Star Wars character and the issues I had with her.

Basically, the character is one of the first characters — and one of the most prominent characters — introduced for the Barabel race, which I think was mostly created by the Expanded Universe.  I had thought — and wondered — if she had been created before “New Jedi Order” but a very quick scan of her Wookieepedia page suggests that wasn’t the case.  Regardless, even there she rose to a prominent role for an obscure character and was even added to Luke Skywalker’s journey to find Zonama Sekot, which was a bit strange.  However, “New Jedi Order” gave her both a reason to do so — a special Force ability to sense life, useful when looking for a living thing in the void of space — and a flaw, which is that on returning to her home planet and finding it being harvested by the Vong she attacked one of their ships … and in damaging it found that it was a carrier transporting their captives and so caused likely thousands of them to be vented into and die in space.  At least part of her journey, then, was trying to make up for that and to learn not to be so aggressive.  And while she was more prominent in that series than she likely should have been, it still worked out reasonably well and she was mostly non-offensive.

Later, she ended up training Leia Solo as a Jedi and was credited with giving her skills that she couldn’t have had otherwise (mostly toughness) in the series that I refuse to re-read “The Dark Nest Trilogy”.  While there were other reasons to get her involved, having her train Leia sent up a red flag about the character.  There were lots of other characters who could have done it and have had more of a connection to the original characters, so there was little reason to use Saba for that except to insert the character into the main cast and thus make her a prominent character, which suggests that the author really liked her and wanted to make her quite prominent.  And since that trilogy was written by Troy Denning who is also the one who most used her in later works, that does seem to be a reasonable theory.

The next time she shows up, at least as I followed her, is in “Legacy of the Force”, as a prominent member of the Jedi Council.  Again, I didn’t think she was that prominent to warrant that given the other members, but could let it slide.  However, things come to a head after Mara Skywalker is killed.  At her funeral, Leia was supposed to give the eulogy, but she is chased from the Temple by Galactic Alliance Guards.  So they need someone to replace her, and they all appeal to Saba to do it.  Why?  Because she was Mara’s friend, supposedly.  This is despite the fact that Corran Horn is standing right there — and encouraging her to give the eulogy — but was established in “I, Jedi” as being a lot closer to Mara than pretty much anyone else, possibly even including Leia.  On the basis of being close to Mara and her friend, Corran Horn is the obvious choice.  But her being somehow Mara’s friend is the entire basis for her doing it.  And it would have been so easy to in fact acknowledge that Corran was the better choice, but give him something else to do, like finding any remaining GAG officers before they do something (as a trained CorSec officer, he’d be a prime candidate for that role, and he would be the first to point that out to Saba if she turned to him to do it instead).  So, Saba does demur at first, they give a ridiculous reason for her to do it that doesn’t take the context of the EU into account, and so she reluctantly gives it.

And screws it up.

Jacen Solo, the main villain of “Legacy of the Force” arrives at about the time she starts speaking, and so she uses the opportunity to berate him for falling to the Dark Side.  All that did was make Jacen suspicious that they knew something he didn’t want them to know and make him fearful that they were going to move against him, pushing him to send guards to the Academy in order to gain leverage over them.  Nice job breaking it, hero.  And she never gets called out for this in any way, even with a mild comment that antagonizing Jacen probably wasn’t a good move with only the more aggressive Kyp Duron supporting it.  What she did was unnecessary and ineffective, and yet this isn’t acknowledged as her screwing up, even to herself.

And it gets far worse in “Fate of the Jedi”.

I do hope to go through that series in some detail over the next little while, but the short version is that Luke Skywalker is exiled and Kenth Hamner is appointed acting Grand Master of the Jedi Order.  He is trying his hardest to avoid war between the Order and Daala who is the Head of State of the Galactic Alliance (that replaced the Republic).  The other Masters tend to act like spoiled children towards him and at the end depose him by, uh, ignoring him and in theory locking him up so that they can launch a mission to support Luke against a Lovecraftian Ancient One (don’t ask.  At least, not right now).  Anyway, this will give Daala an excuse to use open force against the Jedi, so Hamner is desperately trying to stop it.  He ends up fighting Saba, and she ends up being caught between letting him fall to his death or letting the ships out, so she lets him fall to his death.  And almost immediately after doing so, she is appointed to take his place as acting Grand Master, because supposedly they “need a warrior”, despite the fact that the Jedi aren’t really supposed to be warriors and others of them had fought as well … like Kyle Katarn who was also far more reasonable and balanced than she was.  Her next move is almost immediately to push for a major mission to depose Daala, which it seems pretty clear is a pretty aggressive move for the Jedi Order.  It succeeds and she joins a triumvirate with the respectable assistant to Daala and a Senator who is actually part of a conspiracy against the GA (so much for Jedi senses!).

Okay, while you could argue that Hamner was too passive, how in the world did these Jedi Masters decide that it was acceptable to put the person who fought and was at least responsible for the death of the previous acting Grand Master in his place as acting Grand Master?  Gaining authority by killing the person above you is a specific Sith trait, not a Jedi trait.  And why in the world were they willing to depose Daala and take over despite knowing that that was both how the Emperor got started and the more recent Jacen Solo got started?  She forms a triumvirate with some non-Jedi political personages which is exactly what happened in “Legacy of the Force”, and the series establishes that the fallout from that was responsible for much anti-Jedi sentiment.  How in the world would that be expected to help things?  How in the world did it help things?

And she doesn’t get any real pushback on doing that.  She professes guilt for letting Hamner die, and Luke consoles her by saying that Hamner would never have given up until he had died so somehow she was giving him what he wanted.  Huh.  I’m not going to blame Luke for that sort of comment because in the EU he’s far too much of a nice guy to make Saba feel guilty over it, but the fact that everyone else pretty much just goes along with her even in deposing Daala is far too much.

What’s interesting is that the other authors almost immediately start retconning that whole mess.  Aaron Allston, I think, gives her one or two scenes as part of the triumvirate but mostly ignores it, and Christie Golden, I think, both has Leia take over attending the meetings to the delight of everyone else involved and soon gets the Jedi out of the triumvirate entirely.  The character is shoehorned into a prominent position that doesn’t fit and the other authors want to get rid of it as quickly as possible.

Ultimately, while I don’t want to make a reference to a worn trope that talks about characters like this, these things are exactly why I don’t like Saba Sebatyne.  She could have been an interesting character with a different outlook on things and an interesting conflict where she had to balance the aggressive nature of her race versus what was expected of a Jedi, where she has to actually act less aggressively than the other Jedi to show that she’s not giving in to her race’s tendencies, which then could let her both triumph by not giving in to aggression but also by harnessing that aggression at the perfect time like Roy Greenhilt does here.  Instead, while she feels bad about such things people hasten to assure her that she did the right thing, and most of the time she doesn’t even feel bad about them.  This is a character, it seems to me, that at least some of the authors like far more than the audience does.

2 Responses to “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Saba Sebatyne?”

  1. Deep Dive: Fate of the Jedi: Vortex | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] I’ve already talked about the Jedi plot, and how Saba Sebatyne takes over as acting Grand Mast…  The main issue here is that this was supposed to be set up as Hamner failing as Grand Master, losing the confidence of the Jedi Council, needing to be replaced, and then going a bit berserk in trying to prevent them from launching their starfighters to help Luke out.  Except the main evidence is that Hamner had made a deal with the known and honourable and eventually ally Nek Bwua’tu to try to calm things down if they didn’t launch the ships.  Saba Sebatyne is given an internal monologue to express how terrible this is and how great a betrayal it is, but it doesn’t seem that unreasonable, especially since Hamner was sworn to secrecy by Bwua’tu about it.  Hamner comes across as someone who was trying to do the right thing in a very complicated situation, and the Council comes off as a bunch of adolescents — see the whole “Kenth’s Pet” issue from “Allies” — who don’t have anything like a sensible plan to oppose Daala but simply want to do it, leading to Saba declaring at the end that they must depose Daala despite them actually having no plan or contacts that they could use to do that at that time, and right after they made Daala back down with a rather visible hostage taking and threat in order to rescue the Horn children. […]

  2. Deep Dive: Fate of the Jedi: Ascension | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] this also ends Saba’s arc, as I talked about before, as she gets forgiven for killing Hamner but Luke takes the Jedi Order out of the GA which means […]

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