This is a transitional page gathering and sorting initial thoughts about several technical topics arising from The Phantom Menace. The topics covered here may eventually be divided and integrated with other pages dealing with more general subjects. However the temporary organisation may turn out to be semi-permanent.
Thanks are due to, in alphabetic order:
Amidala's senatorial barge represents an apparent attempt to address shortcomings of the older royal yacht, demonstrated in the adventures that started with the invasion of Naboo [The Phantom Menace]. The number of thrusters is double and the ship is less massive (the fuselage is much less voluminous), implying substantially greater maximum acceleration (which is all the better for escaping pursuit and minimising the time spent in transit through unsafe expanses of interplanetary space). The ship is attributed greater redundancy of its vital systems, for example the provision of dual hyperdrive cores [AOTC:ICS], and a characteristically new style of Naboo shield generators and distribution devices, which are externally distinguished by the tail fins. These should provide greater durability and defensibility than on the vessel Queen Amidala once used in her flight from invasion.
Our only view of the interior [in the movie, apart from the cross-section artwork in AOTC:ICS] is a shot of two military personnel announcing the ship's arrival to the decoy senator. There is a typically cylindrical elevator on the left side of the visible chamber. The far background is filled with a bulkhead and closed door of the kind that run transversely in the old royal starship, and the foreground is set in a similar doorway, which is open. The lenticular outline of the side walls hints (but does not definitively prove) that this is an area on the upper deck. (The fuselage has only enough space for two decks, and the lower deck may have reduced headroom below the cockpit.) This visible area is consistent with only one part of the ship [referencing the art in AOTC:ICS for convenience], which is the foyer outside the cockpit. The decoy senator must be standing at the back of the cockpit (making it an unusual visit by a dignitary to a crew area) and the closed doors in the background hide the crew cabins from sight (perhaps mercifully).
The movie's only view from the interior of the barge.
Details of the cockpit and crew deck. In a surprising placement, the senatorial decoy (Corde) must have stood at the back of the cockpit (facing aft into the crew lounge) when she was formally told of the ship's approach to Coruscant. Her visit may be a subtle giveaway that she was a disguised guard, since discretion and commonsense would keep civilian passengers (especially a prestige passenger) out of functional crewed areas.
Senator Amidala's fateful journey to Tatooine and Geonosis was undertaken aboard the smallest representative of Naboo starship design seen so far (excluding starfighters). The fuselage of this bullet-shaped yacht is so cramped that it must have difficulty fitting two interior decks: a lower deck for the small hold, engineering access and passenger quarters; an upper deck for the cockpit and crew areas.
The single lift shaft is on the port side of the cockpit; the chambers behind the cockpit must contain the crew space. [The lift placement is peripherally visible in the movie, plainly visible in behind-the-scenes photographs, and has been shown explicitly in Attack of the Clones: Incredible Cross Sections (AOTCICS).] However, strangely, when R2-D2 went out after his owner, he passed the lift entrance entirely and rolled into the back area of the upper deck. C-3PO derided the little droid (presumably for this mistake) and gave chase. Why did R2-D2 go the wrong way? Did he seek to pick up something from the aft cabins before leaving the ship?
Another interesting aspect of design proven by this ship is that the Naboo (or Nubian?) lifts apparently have no ceiling, only a floor disk. The curved shape of the fuselage rules out any possibility that the lift may have a flat ceiling at or above head height when the lift is settled on the upper deck.
The configuration of the ship's propulsion systems presents a more significant structural and dynamic mystery. The two sublight thrusters are far off-centre: almost at the lowest possible extremity of the hull. If the ship's centre of mass were near the centre of its volume (halfway between the points of the bow and stern) then the thrusters could not fire their thrust streams horizontally without exerting a huge torque. There is no visible place for auxiliary thrusters that could maintain orientation. In principle the main ejecta streams might be permanently angled downwards to compensate, but horizontal flight would require a conspicuous (indeed visually ludicrous) tilt. Furthermore, the solid cone centred in each thruster nozzle probably precludes thrust vectoring at the necessarily extreme angles.
The simplest apparent explanation is that the yacht's centre of mass truly is somewhere down on the level of the engines. Perhaps an extremely dense component exists in that region, outweighing most of the rest of the ship. The hyperdrive core is a plausible candidate for this object [since the typical characteristics of compact hyperdrives are not extensively defined in the literature].
R2-D2 attempts to exit the yacht, but he rolls past the lift. C-3PO follows along this wayward path.
The planet Naboo appears to be a life-bearing terrestrial planet, but it differs from previously known real and fictional terrestrial planets in several important respects. In fact the planet's capacity to bear life may be just a superficial and coincidental condition, that does not imply any particular physical kinship with orbs such as Alderaan, Coruscant or Earth.
The peculiarity centres around the nature of the planetary interior. Behind the Magic states that the planetary interior is not hot or molten like conventional terrestrial planets. Boss Nass sent Qui-Gon Jinn and his companions to Theed via a network of underwater subterranean caverns which he called "the planet core". This can be either taken literally or else treated as a proper name or mistranslation (which would minimise but not eliminate the peculiarities of the planet).
Under a literal interpretation, we would have to conclude that the minerals of the interior of Naboo are impoverished in the radioactive isotopes that warm the interiors of other substantial planets. This may mean that the interior is substantially poorer in silicates, and/or it may mean that the radioisotopes decayed away billions of years earlier in Naboo prehistory. Perhaps the planetary system formed from a nebula that did not receive injections of radioisotopes from nearby supernovae, and/or happened in an interstellar environment that was relatively poor in higher elements. Alternatively, the planet may be rich in iron-like metals, but poor in silicates for some reason, which would imply an even more peculiar environment of formation.
The difficulty with having a cold core is that there would be no convection in the mantle, which is essential for driving tectonic plate motions responsible for building mountains and other high-relief landforms against the perpetual forces of water erosion. The fact that Naboo has some rather extreme relief ought to be a sign of strong tectonic activity and internal motions. If the core is cold, then some other special and widespread mechanism is needed to explain the violent raising, lowering and faulting of Naboo's crust.
Perhaps the composition of Naboo is so exotic that its interior is made of substances that remain fluid or plastic even at low temperatures. If materials could be devised that would convect under conditions comparable to those at the surface then crustal motions (and therefore abundant faulting and mountain-building) could be sustained even if temperature gradients in the interior were shallow. This kind of theory invokes an interior that is cool yet molten, however "molten" may still be difficult to reconcile with the sematics of Lucas' original descriptions of the planet. If this theory is acceptable in semantic terms, then we have to consider a very wide and deep question: what exactly is the bulk composition of Naboo? Is it a salty slurry? Something else?
If the interior cannot be molten, then we need a mechanism for driving tectonics other than convection in the mantle. Perhaps the landmasses are not as dense as regular rock, but float in a titanic sea constituting the essence of the planet's outer layers rather than just a superficial and insignificant coating as on Earth; if so then the continents could migrate and crash through each other like plates of pack-ice under the influence of tides and more the gradual evolution of the planet's rotation and orbit.
Perhaps even more radical theories may be needed. Existence of the blue explosive mined by the Gungans suggests that Naboo contains conditions that are far from chemical equilibrium with the surface. Perhaps the planet somehow disposes of its internal energy by means involving chemical/electric activity. If regions of the planet are akin to gigantic galvanic cells then the continents may be based on crystalline formations that alternately grow through precipitation from the surrounding solution, or dissolve back into it. We could imagine that landmasses above regions of stronger deposition would be uplifted (creating mountain ranges) and spread laterally (causing faulting and the creation of immense cliffs).
If the Jedi and Jar Jar Binks did not literally travel through the core of Naboo then it is still necessary to explain the remarkably rugged underwater terrain that they traversed. It seems similar to the above-ground faulting of the Theed cliff, so perhaps these regions are joined by an especially energetic zone of tectonic movement. Otoh Gunga may be near a submarin subduction zone, whereas Theed may be a similar area that is continental in nature.
Figurative interpretations do have advantages in explaining the conditions encountered by the heroic travellers. Firstly, the depth of their descent could be minimised, which would make it easier to explain how the bongo can withstand the external water pressure. In water, pressure rises to dozens of times atmospheric pressure within mere kilometres, which is much less than the thickness of a planetary crust, let alone mantle.
Secondly, there is the problem that the motion of the submarine is limited by water resistence, and must have been very much less than the speed of sound in water. Tacit visual evidence suggests that the bongo doesn't move faster than an automobile on land. If Otoh Gunga are far apart compared to the circumference of Naboo, then the underwater journey might take days or longer, so that the crew might become very hungry along the way. (The fact that Jinn and company arrived not long after the Federation invaders provides interesting clues about the average speed of travel via a convoluted underwater "core" journey versus the path through Naboo's swamp terrain.)
The underwater terrain encountered by Qui-Gon Jinn's bongo consisted of a network of vertical slabs, steep crevices, sandy horizontal shelves (catching material eroded from above) and mysterious vertical pillars. The pillars may be biological, in which case they indicate the presence of a food/energy source other than direct sunshine; or they may be growing mineral deposits of some kind.
The sando monster is a deep-dwelling beast. Its possession of eyes and its quadrupedal shape indicate that its recent evolutionary ancestors were land-dwelling.
The city of Theed is an environment that is as fascinating as it is complex. Its filmic realism is enhanced by the repeated appearance of several key landmarks which ought to enable careful observers to reconstruct a map of the capital's basic layout.
There are three basic visual tools for such analyses. Firstly there are the buildings themselves. Each is visibly unique, so the presence of any two landmark outdoor structures in different scenes effectively defines the relative positions of the camera within the Theed environment. The second major cue is the way shadows fall. In pictures taken in broad daylight within minutes of each other, all the shadows will point in the same absolute direction, which consequently determines the absolute orientation of each camera viewpoint. The third useful instrument for inspecting Theed is the underlying regularity and formal planning of the city itself. The streets are paved with stones that are about a foot square, and all the buildings, plazas, sculptures and roads appear to be aligned according to the same parallel, rectilinear grid.
For the time being, the basic locations will be identified and described. A careful plan of the buildings' spatial relationships will have to wait for the future availability of raw images of higher resolution, suitable for counting the street tiles and other quantitative features.
The most important feature of the Theed environment is the massive cliff face that cuts through the heart of the city. The cliff runs to the horizon. The land at the cliff base is a rugged, lushly vegetated mixed terrain convolving steep hills and meandering rivers. The water flows off the upland side in a series of waterfalls that are directed as a series of decorative canals in the city. There are even higher hills in the far background, and these must be the ultimate source of the water.
The cliffs are impassable for flightless craft, therefore both the Trade Federation forces and the Grand Army of the Gungans took a different approach. The hilly plains that were the site of the land battle must be a shallower path from the swamps into town. These plains were probably somewhere to the south of Theed, according to the novel. It is not proven whether there is a direct path from there to Theed, but it would be reasonable to consider an initial approximation supposing that the cliff runs roughly east/west at the northern limit of the city.
It should be conceded that the location of the plain in relation to the city is not absolutely proven yet. In the novel pp.261, 275 indicate that the plains are south of Theed; however p.255 contradicts this location by stating that the battle plain leads south towards Theed, which would put the plain in the north. The shadows provide ambiguous cues too: the droid army drove to Theed with the sun at their left, but the sun was on their right when they arrived at the Palace. This may mean that several hours elapsed between these scenes, or it may mean that the convoy moved in opposite geographic directions in the two camera shots.
In the latter theory, the Federation forces would have travelled along some kind of curved path from the cliff base side, past a distant end of the cliff, around the city and then back towards the Palace at the cliff edge. It may be possible to rationalise the battle plain as someplace adjoining the area at the cliff base, with the only difference being relief, but that would raise the problem of ground vehicle access. The balance of evidence seems to favour a rough lowland at the cliff base and a separate flatter plain leading up to the city in a more gradual way on the opposite side.
During the invaders' first approach to Theed, the city was visible on the horizon at the crest of a range of grassy hills, with no cliffs visible. This observation gives strong support to the theory that Theed is accessed from the side away from the cliff.
Theed faces and concentrates upon the cliff, but is not totally dominated by it. Rather than forming a surrounded central district like conventional cities, Theed seems to insulate its prime assets (like the Palace and hangars) by placing them near the cliff. The streets appear to be polarised in the general direction of the cliff (and also the transverse direction), but they do not seem to conform to local deviations of the cliff edge; the street grid remains self-consistent over the largest scales observed so far.
The main ceremonial entry to Theed Palace is a set of enormous pillars and a tall flight of steps descending into a long plaza. Paired statues, which depict Naboo philosophers according to the Visual Dictionary, stand in ranks on either side of the steps. On the plaza face of the Palace there must be at least one set of arched windows because Queen Amidala was able to observe the arriving invaders from that vantage. The window is off to the (presumably) east side of the building, because her view was to the left of the plaza's midline. It seems possible (though not yet proven) that both the Trade Federation shuttle and the Supreme Chancellor's starship landed in the plaza before the Palace.
In the distance opposite the Palace there are two enormous domed arches over the plaza/avenue, each of which is of a height comparable to the front of the Palace itself. The Gungan victory parade proceeded towards the Palace through at least the closest of these archways. Interestingly, the arch that is second-nearest to the Palace appears to be topped by two horse statues. This may mean that horses are known on Naboo, or creatures which look horse like at a superficial glance. Alternatively, these statues may be horse-analogues, just as the most common sapient species in the STAR WARS galaxy is represented by humans. (This line of reasoning opens controversy over the fundamental nature of the STAR WARS stories, which is far beyond the scope of this page.)
From the Queen's view of the plaza there appeared to be a tall columned building on the (provisionally) west side. It looks very much like the entrance to the hangar complex seen later in the movie, but this may be just a coincidence. However there are several problems with this identification. There should be a river beside the hangar building, and there is almost no possibility of a river lying between the Palace and the hangar-like building seen through the Queen's window. Furthermore this building is separated from the cliff by a major back street, as seen in images of the city facing towards the Palace. If this is truly the same building as the one used for entry to the hangar later in the film, and not just a duplicate, then it must connect to the hangar via an underground passage that is hundreds of metres long because the hangar and its neighbouring river must be far from the Palace Plaza.
The street where Queen Amidala was liberated from the Trade Federation droids was not the main plaza in front of the Palace. It was too narrow, and there were no Federation vehicles there. (One repulsortank was visible around the far corner.) It must be a tributary street within walking distance of the Palace. The illumination of the domes on the background buildings in the final shot before the Jedi attack suggests that the street is parallel to the plaza, running in the (provisionally) north-south direction. Two of the domes and rooftops in the background are recognisable as those belonging to minor buildings to the (provisional) west of the plaza in aerial views.
The Jedi observe a squad of battle droids escorting Queen Amidala and her retinue from the Palace to a detention camp. They follow along one balcony level, seeing the droids march with shadows falling at about 11 degrees to the lines of the street tiles. Seconds later, when droids are seen flung against this building, it becomes clear that there is a similar angle between the grid of paving stones and the base of the building itself. The Jedi turn a corner at the balcony level and find themselves on top of an arch facing the droids and captives, who are now walking in a direction such that their shadows fall at about forty five degrees to the tiles. The arch level is cloistered.
The Jedi and Binks ambush the battle droids just before they reach the arch. To the right of the droids there is a sandstone building with a street-side wall that is sloped on the ground level. The street wall is indented with a set of narrow arch-topped alcoves that are about the same width as a conventional doorway. The function of these structures is unknown.
Sio Bibble directs the Jedi, Binks and the freed prisoners up a flight of stairs leading into a shadowed side-alley. The alley is on the side of the street opposite the building from which the Jedi first sighted the prisoners and droids. The alley entry is between the edge of the arch and the slope-sided building described above. The alley leads directly off the street for a few metres, then takes a left turn so that it becomes parallel to the street. Captain Panaka indicates that they should follow the alley in that direction in order to reach the hangar. Whether this is a direct route or an indirect but discreet route is not known.
The Alley side of the arch building features a double door at ground level. The building is quite thin in the direction of the ally; probably only wide enough for one room. There is another transverse passage connecting the alley back to the street on the far side of the arch (with respect to the ambush site).
On its street side, the Theed hangar building faces a wide plaza that is not necessarily related to the plaza near the Palace. The hangar building entrance is over ten metres wide and high, and is distinguished by its massive sandstone blocks, pillars and decorative bollards. (The outdoor "bollards" are about 2m tall, so perhaps this is not the best name for them, but the versions inside the hangar and power complex are only about half as tall.) To the left of the entrance there is a small row of ornamental trees, behind which Queen Amidala's attack group hid. During the attack, the sunlight in the plaza was diffuse, as if by clouds, and there were no sharp shadows.
Captain Panaka's group hid under a double-tower archway at the perpendicular side of the plaza that is to the right of the hangar, as viewed from the hangar entry. There are doors from the upper floor of the towers, which presumably lead to a walkway across the arch. The towers are not connected to any buildings on the plaza side. If the tower furthest from the hangar is called TS (and the other is called TN), then there is another wide street or plaza beyond TS. Beyond the arch TS seems to adjoin a two-storey broad-domed building with narrow-columned cloisters on the street side.
The building immediately to the left of the hangar, as viewed from inside the hangar entry, is tall enough for only a single floor. It has a well-rounded dome that is almost as tall as the basic building below it. Queen Amidala's group hide between this building and the hangar building. The row of ornamental trees sits in front of it. There is a much taller building behind this one.
The hangar opens at the top of the city cliff. The Palace doesn't seen to appear in external views of the hangar from the cliff side. From the viewpoint of someone inside the hangar facing outwards, the building extends a short way to the right, beyond which is a river with paved banks, flowing directly over the cliff. The hangar building did not cast a shadow on the near bank of the river during Amidala's incursion into occupied Theed; the sun shone directly into the hangar a short way, from an elevation of ten or more degrees off vertical. The right wall of the hangar has a double door halfway along its length, which leads to a columned hallway. (Queen Amidala left the hangar through this door.) There may be another doorway on the same wall very close to the hangar mouth (through which three droidekas enter). The door on the left wall leads to the power generator complex. The wall at the back of the hangar has two wide double doors. Darth Maul entered through the one closest to the power generator side.
Facing from the city out over the cliffs, the Palace has a significant river flowing past it on the right side. Viewed from the air beyond the cliff, looking towards the city, the Palace appears to be situated on a slight promontory. On the side of the Palace opposite the river, the curve of the cliff digs deep into the city before swinging out again in the far background.
At least one buttress tower is free from the cliff and is connected to the main building by a skywalk. The upper surface of the skywalk appears to have rails/ledging to make it suitable for paedestrians in the open air.
Queen Amidala and her infiltrators fought battle droids in a corridor resembling the halls near the hangar, except that there were huge arched windows on both walls. They exited one set of windows and ascended from one ledge to another on a cliff-side face of the building. Then they entered another corridor with parallel windowed walls, on the level leading to the throne room and the Neimoidians. Unfortunately the whole corridor-thin multi-level structure does not seem to be visible in long-range views of the Palace. They must be on one of the highest points of the structure because the buttress tower appears far below the window ledges. (otherwise there must be a second buttress tower at a much lower level, unseen in the presently-available long-range views).
Theed city scaled models, from CINEFEX.
Invasion route of the Trade Federation army. Judging by the look of the city fringe, this is not the cliff side of Theed.
Palace exterior and steps on the plaza side. The avenue and plaza lead under a triumphal arch.
Theed Palace interiors. The Queen watches the invaders from a window high on the plaza face of the building, near the left corner of the plaza.
Cliff side of the Theed Palace: movie screenshots and computer models. [TPM; CINEFEX]
The Jedi bongo emerges from the underwater realm in a river close to the Theed cliff. They initially face upstream, towards the centre of the city.
Security battle droids lead the Queen's retinue from the Palace towards a concentration camp. They are intercepted by Jedi.
The Jedi leap from the arch balcony to ambush the Queen's captors. The sloped-sided building is to the left of the Jedi. Structures in the distant background are identifiable in aerial views of Theed. [CINEFEX]
Jinn and Kenobi confer with the Queen's advisors in an upstairs alley beside the ambush archway.
Scenery of the hangar plaza [TPM DVD]. Hangar plaza exterior set [CINEFEX].
The cliff side of the Theed hangar exit.
Hangar exit from the right wall (facing out hangar mouth).
Lord Maul makes his entry to the hangar. Behind him are bollards similar to those on the street-side exterior of the hangar building. He leads the Jedi into the hangar and then out the side door into the generator complex.
Glimpses of the interior blueprints for the Theed hangar, and a completed rendering [CINEFEX].
One of the halls in Queen Amidala's battle towards the Trade Federation leaders. Note the light behind the doors closing at the far end of the passage: its presence demonstrates that this hall is not the same as the one leading directly off the hangar, although the texture and form are similar.
The part of the Palace where Amidala and troops made their vertical ascent was only as thin as the hallway, with windows on both sides. This is not merely a case of a big mirror being on one side of the hall, because that would have shown reflections of the people as well as windows. If it's in the main part of the palace then one set of windows must be holographic simulations.
Queen Amidala and some of her retainers bypassed the main concentration of pursuing battle droids by scaling the palace exterior and reentering it through this higher-level hall. The statue appears to be the centre of a Y-fork junction.
Photomosaics of the portions of Theed: (1) near Palpatine's landing site; (2) near the horse-statue archway.
From a cultural and political point of view, one of the most puzzling aspects of The Phantom Menace arises from the offhand statements indicating that the Queen of Naboo is somehow "elected". What is the nature of this "election"?
All governments consist of a mutually-restrained balance between permanent apolitical officers and impermanent partisan influences. Not all offices of government can be filled by competitive election. To subject a monarch to popular election would be no more prudent than holding elections for the judiciary, the military or the civil service. It would amount to the creation of a "president-for-life".
Popular election in the sense commonly used on Earth is inimical to the dignity and independence of a monarch. A monarch is most effective when she is removed from the political sphere and is representative of all of her subjects, not merely those who would vote one way or another. Competitive electoral processes necessarily politicise the candidates and polarise the electorate. Elections cater to and create political operators and partisan behaviour; and candidates inevitably develop debts to special interest groups or political movements. Succession through birthright precludes the purchasing of influence and the development of immodest and divisive aspirations. since nobody can control the fatal quirks of birth and death. Politicians need to be ephemeral and numerous to counterbalance each other, but a monarch needs to be singular, permanent, independent and impartial in order to inspire and restrain all the politicians. Ideally, a constitutional monarch is an apoliticial guardian of responsible governance and a symbol of unity for her people. To produce a monarch by a simple contentious electoral process would destroy her impartiality, her unifying role, and her value as a constitutional referee obstructing the excesses and ambitions of ordinary political players.
At the same time, the presence of an active elected monarch who had risen to power through choice and effort would also be a burden on the government she presides over. The existence of such a figure would vex the government with a clash of mandates, resulting in sporadic executive and legislative gridlock or failures of restraint whenever one side gains dominance over the others. Giving a lifetime tenure to a person motivated and egotistic enough to seek popular election would be a recipe for despotism, no matter how pure the original intentions.
Our glimpses of Naboo show an ancient society blessed with stability, despite the hidden deviousness of manipulators in their midst. For this stability to persist it is obvious that Queen Amidala cannot have been elected to her throne in the same manner as terrestrial politicians elected into office. How then can we rationalise what we've heard about the Naboo system of government? In what sense was she "elected"? Were there any voters, and if so then who were they? An election is not necessarily a contest; was there just one candidate, or were there many? How do they qualify? Do candidates have any choice about their participation? How often does this kind of election occur? How exactly did the election affect her status?
The simplest possibility is that Amidala is a symbolic Queen, or at least has royal status, in the normal apolitical hereditary fashion, but she has also been elected to a parallel position of executive leadership. It may be that she is both titular Queen and elected prime minister of her world. Or, she may be a traditional regional monarch who was elected to a greater form of global leadership. The abundant and frequent use of the prefix "royal" for institutions and vehicles associated with Amidala implicitly reveals that at least some aspects of her position are hereditary. Indeed her eventual son and daughter are prince and princess by birthright, as indicated in the profile of the recent Princess Leia (Ceremonial Dress) action figure from Hasbro:
"Although she was adopted at a young age into the Royal House of Alderaan, Leia was in fact a true princess, as her birth mother was Queen Amidala of Naboo."
If it turns out that Amidala's "election" and regal status are not separate then perhaps the Naboo royal election was an irregular event, designed to determine the succession in the rare cases when one dynasty reaches its end and none of the remaining noble houses has a clearly superior claim. The Romanov line in Imperial Russia was supposedly enthroned by public acclaim, but thereafter they followed a normal pattern of royal succession. In Britain, parliament intervened in the royal succession in the Glorious Revolution. Perhaps the crowning of Queen Amidala was similar to one of these terrestrial events, staunching a dynastic crisis caused by her predecessor's abdication (an act which might have terminated King Veruna's line even if he had otherwise eligible relatives). The mechanism of an irregular succession could have been anything from a formal, polite and unanimous invitation by a court council to spontaneous revolutionary rallies in the streets of Theed.
There are other imaginable situations that might require some kind of irregular mechanism to determine the succession. Perhaps the principle of succession by birthright continued untouched and there was no dynastic discontinuity, but the true succession may have been unknown for special reasons. For instance, Amidala may have been one of a set of twins whose order of birth was unrecorded. (A predisposition for bearing twins is heritable down the female line, and Amidala seems to have passed it to her own daughter, so she could easily have been a twin herself.) To resolve contention between twins, some form of election might be devised to determine the royal precedence.
If the mysterious royal "election" of Naboo is in fact applied to every King or Queen then rationalising the details becomes a much greater challenge. It is hard to think of a mechanism that could be regarded as an election without being inimical to stable, impartial monarchy. Some of the following models might deserve consideration:
The effectiveness and dignity of the regal election would depend greatly on the scope of participation. Allowing any citizen to run for office or to sponsor a candidate would be an invitation for divisiveness and chaos. Suffrage may be less than universal and the eligibility of candidates may be highly restricted. (It may be that all candidates are royal to begin with.) At the same time the process must be free from the brutality of public scrutiny and open competition, otherwise only ruthless and experienced individuals could reach the throne. The crowning of a girl of only thirteen or fourteen years of age is a circumstance that points to heredity and/or some other non-competitive mechanisms.
The noble chiefs of ancient Ireland led their separate peoples by birthright, but convened to elect a single King from amongst themselves. Similarly the electors of the Holy Roman Empire were hereditary princes, dukes and other nobles who would vote one of their members to become Emperor upon the death or abdication of the old Emperor. (The crown would usually pass down through the same house in deference to practical reality.) This kind of model is a strong possibility for Naboo, since Amidala was separately recognised as Princess of Theed years before assuming the global throne. [Episode I: Visual Dictionary]
A better electoral model involves a kind of formal and symbolic ratification vote which would be conducted like either a referendum or legislative motion. There would be a single candidate, determined by birthright. Voters would have the opportunity to vote in the affirmative or not at all. In the event of a candidate failing to receive the necessary majority vote, she would be eliminated from contention and another election would be held to test the next princess or prince in line, as determined by ordinary birthright. The first royal candidate to receive the necessary mandate would be crowned to reign until death or abdication. The constitutional situation would be similar to the mechanisms of the real restored monarchy of Cambodia: in which the succeeding crown prince requires parliamentary approval, or else another royal relative is chosen.
The issue of Queen Amidala's election has wide consequences beyond the events of The Phantom Menace, adding significance to all the other STAR WARS episodes. It may add another dimension to the threat that Emperor Palpatine saw in Luke Skywalker. If Luke Skywalker ever learned of his full heritage, he could accept his royal duty, submit to whatever symbolic "election" passes for coronation and reign on Naboo after his mother's death. (This assumes that she dies before Palpatine, and that Naboo continues to be inhabited until Return of the Jedi.) In that position he could undercut the political legitimacy of Palpatine, whose career and accreted powers are founded upon his status as Naboo's sectorial senator. Perhaps such a sectorial senator may even be technically subject to arbitrary dismissal by the Naboo planetary sovereign? If so then Palpatine had reason to fear both of Luke's parental connections. (Leia would have posed the same threat, but Palpatine did not learn of her relationship before he was slain by Lord Vader.)
Queen Amidala is rather young compared to the kind of people capable of succeeding in any conceivable form of openly competitive popular election.
The conduct and speech of the Naboo characters reveals some subtle but fascinating insights into their culture, politics and personailities.
The most significant points to note concern the treatment of Queen Amidala. She is almost always addressed as "Your Highness" rather than "Your Majesty". In Western cultures on Earth the former is used for a non-reigning princess or prince, whereas "Majesty" is the term for the sovereign of the day, or the consort of a deceased King. We can be sure that "Highness" is correct for Amidala in the Naboo setting, because many of the speakers who address her this way are among the most deliberate and well-informed courtiers (ie. it is not just a gaffe by foreigners). The Queen even used this term of address herself, when she posed as her own handmaiden. ["We are brave, Your Highness."]
This suggests that although Amidala is Queen in some respects, she has not yet ascended to the throne completely. The most likely reason for this would be her age or short tenure to date. Some of the royal powers may be entrusted to another entity, until she reaches the age of full responsibility. Perhaps the council of ministers she met immediately before the Trade Federation invasion serves in a collective regency role, as well as a normal governmental function.
Then we must wonder at what point Amidala's will complete her ascension. Is there an age limit? Is there a test of some kind? Does it depend on her marital status, or some other personal condition? Is there any connection between these qualifications and her distinctive narrow stripe of lipstick on her lower lip? (This is a pattern unseen on all other Naboo women and girls seen so far.)
When Senator Palpatine came to tell her about his nomination for Supreme Chancellor, he addressed her as "Your Majesty". We may assume that he was using his secret Sith power of prophecy to glimpse the future — he pronounced that he would definitely be Chancellor. In that case his verbal slip may have happened because his attention was in a future time when Amidala does become a complete Queen.
Palpatine made a more worrying and presumptuous gaffe in that scene: he took a seat while the Queen remained on her feet. In polite company a person normally remains standing in the presence of reigning royalty, unless explicit leave is given. Palpatine's gesture conveys a sense of superiority which is inappropriate for his status in The Phantom Menace, but which is consistent with his future status as Imperial (though not royal) sovereign of the entire galaxy.
Events of Return of the Jedi cast these points of etiquette in another interesting light. Luke Skywalker addressed Palpatine as "Your Highness." Palpatine's planetary origins must be common knowledge, even if Luke does not know that he has a family connection to Naboo. Did he deliberately use the Naboo form of royal address? Is Palpatine a prince in his own right, belonging to the reigning house of another principality on Naboo? Or is he acting as regent or dictator of Naboo? Is Palpatine a usurper on his own world?
Animal life shown on Naboo in The Phantom Menace is so bewilderingly diverse that it is impossible to attempt a comprehensive survey immediately. However there are several interesting general points that deserve recognition at this stage.
The characteristics of the sea monsters indicate origins near the surface. (Some of them may actually live within the lighted range, which could only be a tiny fraction of the depth to the literal "core" of the planet.) The species with eyes must have biological ancestors that lived in lighted regions of the water. (They may have retained sight as they evolved into deeper-dwelling forms, in order to see other animals which are bioluminscent.) The surface ancestry of sando monsters is even more explicit: although adults are too massive to survive their own body-weight on land, they are definite quadrupeds rather than finned marine beasts. Their land-dwelling ancestors may be more recent than the land-dwelling ancestors of whales on Earth.
Several Naboo species seem to have been exported to other parts of the galaxy. At the Boonta Classic podrace, Jabba the Hutt was in possession of small nunas creatures which are reported to have been brought to him by one of his assassins who was recently contracted for work on Naboo. The nunas seen in the stampede earlier in the movie were much larger. More remarkably, the Podracer computer game shows that someone has transported Opee Sea Killers to the planet Aqualis. Gungan "bongo" submarines were also there, so perhaps the Opee were accidentally carried in the same shipments, as indetectible eggs or fry in the water. Deliberate introduction of such a dangerous predator is incomprehensible. Both examples demonstrate that Naboo must be a world enmeshed in the galactic trade network to a more than trivial extent.
The sando monster is a deep-dwelling beast. Its possession of eyes and its quadrupedal shape indicate that its recent evolutionary ancestors were land-dwelling.
Opee sea killer pursues a gungan submarine, but is eaten by a sando monster.
Sando aqua monster devours an opee sea killer and then (possibly the same sando) opens its maw to catch a colo claw fish.
Colo claw fish.
Opee Sea Killer and other Naboo fish as seen on Aqualis in the Racer computer game.
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