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Death Star PR Review

on Sun, 03/31/2013 - 00:00

In the Kevin Smith film Clerks, fellow convenience store employees Dante and Randal debate the destruction of the Death Star in Return of the Jedi. “The first Death Star was manned by Imperial army stormtroopers, dignitaries—the only people onboard were Imperials,” Randal explains. “The second time around, it wasn’t even finished yet. They were still under construction. All those innocent contractors hired to do a job were killed, casualties of a war they had nothing to do with.” The comedy web series Death Star PR, however, proves Randal wrong, as the original Death Star was not only equipped with stormtroopers but a small public relations office charged with putting a positive spin on the treacherous actions taken by the Galactic Empire.

The first episode of Death Star PR places public relations director Wilson (Grant Cartwright) and his assistant Sharpe right in the middle of Star Wars: A New Hope, with the planet Alderaan being destroyed by the Death Star. After taking hundreds of phone calls and attempting to remain upbeat about the turn of events, Wilson is directed by the Emperor to make a detailed presentation to Darth Vader outlining a new PR strategy. “You do realize that Vader just chopped his best friend in half in the hangar bay, don’t you?” an exasperated Sharpe replies. After rejecting the first set of “pitches” made by Wilson and Sharpe, Darth Vader does accept their final proposal of blaming the rebels themselves for the destruction of Alderaan. “They’ve been running around all over the place anyway,” Wilson rationalizes. “Who’s to say they didn’t fire the laser?”

Despite his eventual consent, Darth Vader does indeed use the Force to choke Sharpe to death. In fact, Sharpe dies in every episode of Death Star PR, only to reappear moments later but with a different look and appearance. Although the reason for this transformation is never explained, the six actors who portray the character—John Leary, Travis Cotton, Robin Goldsworthy, Anthony Gooley, Rob Jago and Suzannah Bayes-Moreton—do a nice job of mimicking the basic personality and ticks of the lazy, womanizing, video game-playing PR specialist nevertheless.

With his success at putting a positive spin on the destruction of Alderaan, Wilson is now able to hire a third member to his public relations team, Sandra Green (Erin-Jean Norvill)—even though she is a bit naïve about the goings-on of the Empire. Green mistakes the mechanical breathing of Darth Vader, for instance, as a prank phone call from her ex-boyfriend, and has a huge fangirl crush on Princess Leia.

While they are not seen, the majority of the characters from the original Star Wars trilogy are mentioned at one point or another during the six episodes of Death Star PR. Princess Leia is captured a second time within the web series narrative, and is referred to as “everyone’s favorite socialite.” Darth Vader, meanwhile, is described as a “six-foot four-inch, laser-sword wielding, asthmatic, magic-cyborg killing machine,” and in a later episode, Sandra Green remarks, “I’m looking for my very own Han Solo. Someone who will love me—and hate me.” Arguably the best character reference, however, goes to Solo’s sidekick Chewbacca. “I’m going to need a Wookie burger with everything,” Sharpe declares in the web series finale before adding, “Not too chewy.”

Death Star PR creator Robbie Boland has likewise peppered his scripts with a plethora of classic lines from the Star Wars franchise, often placing them in a different context or slightly altering them. Instead of giving Death Star PR a satirical edge, the dialogue—along with the Star Wars character references and scenarios—actually gives the web series a fresh and original vibe to it. Each installment of the web series also adds to the nuanced development of Wilson, Sharpe and Green, making the trio feel like genuine personalities who would fit right in with the films of George Lucas.

There have been many Star Wars spoofs through the years, from Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs to the 2009 comedy Fanboys, but Death Star PR is not one of them. That is not to say that the web series is not funny, as it is filled with many laugh-out-loud moments. It’s just that like the original Star Wars, Death Star PR contains characters that one can identify with and root for, and is more of a natural extension of the Star Wars universe than mere comedic roast. In the Kevin Smith film Clerks, convenience store employee Randal argues that there were many innocent construction workers aboard the second Death Star when it was destroyed in Return of the Jedi. Death Star PR, meanwhile, makes it clear that there were at least a small handful of innocent lives aboard the first Death Star as well.

Anthony Letizia (March 31, 2013)

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