GETTING MORE TALE #618: Qui-Gon’s Noble End
The excitement for a new Star Wars movie was never higher than it was in May of 1999. After all, before Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released, George Lucas could do no wrong. Sure, sure, he hadn’t actually directed anything since the original Star Wars in 1977. That only added to the mystique. He had served as a writer/producer on all three Indiana Jones films, but other than that his credits were not that impressive. Surely, with George Lucas directing Star Wars again, we’ll get something just like we always wanted, right?
Were we ever naive.
There is one figure that never let us down, and that is composer John Williams. His soundtracks always had a few key themes that would stick with you forever. And he was busy through the 80s and 90s, working with his pal Steven Speilberg frequently. Of course, Williams had to return for the new Star Wars. There was nobody else who could do it.
The hit single “Duel of the Fates” premiered worldwide before the movie itself. Hit single? “Duel of the Fates” had a stunning music video…really, a long kick-ass extended trailer. It made the rotation on MuchMusic and MTV, for good reason. Not only was the video a showcase for Darth Maul and our heroes Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn, but the music resonated with people too. It’s tense track with a choir, which Williams always saves for the most dramatic moments in Star Wars. It’s fraught with drama and it’s brilliantly composed, and performed by the London Symphony.
The sheer scale of everything Star Wars in May 1999 meant that we would be stocking The Phantom Menace soundtrack front-racked at the Record Store. That was rare for us. Previously, we stocked James Horner’s Titanic soundtrack, but that boasted Celine Dion’s massive “My Heart Will Go On”. In a sense, perhaps “Duel of the Fates” was the “My Heart Will Go On” of Star Wars. It wasn’t as big but it sure helped put the soundtrack CD on the racks. There were some incredible themes on the soundtrack, but unfortunately also a lot of music that, to use a phrase of my friend Erik Woods, was just “sonic wallpaper”.
The CD was released on Tuesday, May 4, 1999, in advance of the film. We received our copies on Friday, June 30.
Of course I was going to buy my copy right then and there, but I couldn’t believe what I saw when I scanned the back cover. Track 15 caught my eye.
What. The. Hell?
“Qui-Gon’s Noble End”. Everybody knew that Liam Neeson was playing a new Jedi character named Qui-Gon Jinn. A little after that, another track includes “Qui-Gon’s Funeral”!
Why…the fuck…would you advertise that Liam Neeson is dying in the fucking movie, two weeks before the movie is even out? Who named these tracks? Why the hell would you spoil the end of the movie so badly for everyone?
It was baffling. It’s still baffling.
The track list for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi has leaked. I’ve seen it. There are really no colossal spoilers on it. You’ll still want to avoid it if you wish to remain completely spoiler free, but at least they’ve learned their lesson about naming tracks.
One of the most anticipated movies of all time was bound to sell more than a handful of soundtracks in advance. That’s why The Phantom Menace was on our charts! Every single person who bought that CD knew that Liam Neeson was going to die.
The Phantom Menace came out on May 19. My sister and I sat there, watching the final duel. As lightsabers ignited, “Duel of the Fates” began to play. We both sat wondering exactly when Qui-Gon was going to meet his noble end. It became obvious when he and Obi-Wan Kenobi were separated by a force field. Right on cue, Darth Maul impaled him with his red-bladed weapon.
It could have been shocking, but the bigger surprise was that they killed off such a cool villain as Darth Maul after just one movie. (Yes, I know he was resurrected on Clone Wars, a good TV series.)
As we gear up for The Last Jedi in a few short days, let those who wish to remain spoiler-free do so in peace. There will hopefully be no Death Star-sized screwups like “Qui-Gon’s Nobel End”!