“It is said that certain creatures are born with a higher awareness of the Force than humans. Their brains are different; they have more midi-chlorians in their cells.”
~George Lucas, 1977
Since the release of The Phantom Menace in 1999, the usage of midi-chlorians in Star Wars lore has been the topic of countless heated debates between fans regarding not only it’s necessity, but also it’s execution. As a kid who grew up with the Prequel Trilogy (or PT for short), I never understood the negativity revolving around this seemingly simple biological concept. As I grew older, however, I began to understand the argument that the mystery surrounding the Force is what makes it intriguing. While many were content with the general perception of the Force simply existing as “space magic”, it was never what George Lucas originally intended.
So, in order to alleviate this, he provided a simple natural occurring symbiotic biological process as an explanation and gave it a name…midi-chlorians. In doing so, I believe Lucas managed to give a cohesive modern explanation of the Force to a new generation of fans as well as intricately maintaining the original mystery that is beloved by so many, all while creating a narrative trajectory that further demonstrates the overwhelming power and influence the Empire possessed throughout the Galaxy.
Let’s begin with a brief review of the explanations given to us by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn. In the Original Trilogy (or OT) we are told that the Force is “…an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.”
Short and elegant. Vague, but to the point.
In the PT we are told that “Midi-chlorians are a microscopic life form that reside within all living cells and communicates with the Force…Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to you, telling you the will of the Force. When you learn to quiet your mind, you will hear them speaking to you.”
In-depth and educated. Precise, but still open for interpretation. Or better yet, an explanation “for a more civilized age”.
With this information, we are led to believe that the “energy field” exists and “binds the galaxy together” because of the midi-chlorians symbiotic presence in “all living things” communicating with the will of the Force. This seems to be less of an explanation of where the force came from, as many have criticized it to be, and more of an insight into the training required to listen to the will of the Force. All living things around us (surrounds us) and ourselves (penetrates us) are composed of midi-chlorians, and it is through the energy field created by midi-chlorians that Jedi and Sith possess the ability to listen to the Force and communicate with it.
An ability also known as Force sensitivity.
In the OT, it is established that while some may be Force sensitive, others are not. So we are to assume that although the Force is an “energy field created by all living things”, only a select few individuals can actually learn to use it. Also established in the OT is the existence of genetic Force sensitivity, so we understand that not only is the ability to use the Force considerably rare, it is also hereditary.
“The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it and…my sister has it.”
Notice how all of this consistently fails to reveal exactly how the Jedi and the Sith use their abilities to such an extent? The existence of a natural occurring symbiotic biological process does nothing to eliminate the mystery of how Obi-Wan mind tricked those troopers in Mos Eisley, how Yoda was able to lift Luke’s X-Wing out of the swamps of Dagobah, or even how Sidious projected lightning from his fingertips. It merely confirms what we already suspected, that Force sensitivity is a biological process through which certain powers become possible.
The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise told to Anakin by Palpatine in Episode III provides us with valuable knowledge of the power of force sensitivity…
Palpatine: “Did you ever hear the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise?”
Palpatine: “I thought not. It’s not a story the Jedi would tell you. It’s a Sith legend. Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith so powerful and so wise, he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create…life. He had such a knowledge of the Dark Side, he could even keep the ones he cared about…from dying.”
Anakin: “He could actually…save people from death?”
Palpatine: “The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.”
Anakin: “What happened to him?”
Palpatine: “He became so powerful, the only thing he was afraid of was losing his power…which, eventually of course, he did. Unfortunately, he taught his apprentice everything he knew. Then his apprentice killed him in his sleep. Ironic. He could save others from death…but not himself.”
Anakin: “Is it possible to learn this power?”
Palpatine: “Not from a Jedi.”
Focus on the line “…he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create…life” because it allows us to firmly conceptualize the process that is required for one to essentially “use the Force” at such an advanced level.
At the height of the Republic and Jedi prominence, it was possible to scientifically measure the midi-chlorians presence in someone’s cells to provide insight into that person’s potential Force sensitivity.
Qui-Gon: “That’s it then.”
Obi-Wan: “Even Master Yoda doesn’t have a midi-chlorian count that high!”
Qui-Gon: “No Jedi has.”
A higher midi-chlorian count could signify an increased ability to listen and communicate with the Force, where it becomes more natural and intuitive to influence and even manipulate. However, a lower midi-chlorian count could signify a need for a large amount of training just to listen to the Force and even more so to communicate with it. While there are many other inherent traits that influence one’s Force sensitivity, a midi-chlorian count provided measurable evidence from a simple blood test resulting in a higher awareness of one’s potential.
After Order 66 and the rise of the first Galactic Empire, Sidious banned all further studies relating to the Jedi Order or the Force, and purged the data banks of information throughout the galaxy. The extinction of the Jedi and their knowledge of the Force was almost absolute, as even medical professionals at the time understood little about the nature of midi-chlorians. From this point, the understanding of the Force within the galaxy far, far away begins to dwindle.
As we follow the chronological timeline of explanations and events given within the Star Wars universe we see a trajectory of increasingly depleting knowledge of the Force. In the PT we are given a more in depth explanation (to a child, remember) that suggests a higher more scientific understanding. In the OT, we are given an explanation that is more vague and lends itself towards dogma and “hokey religion”. However, in the new Sequel Trilogy (or ST) from Disney, we see Han being forced to convince others that the concept itself even exists.
This generational trend demonstrates the influence of the Empire throughout the galaxy and solidifies the importance of the ancient yet seemingly always diminishing knowledge of the Force.
From science to religion to mythology, the Force has captured our imaginations for generations while simultaneously serving as a basic philosophical analogy of good vs. evil. Even though the introduction of midi-chlorians into Star Wars lore provided us with additional knowledge of how Force sensitivity operates, the mystery of the Force and it’s potential power remains thoroughly intact.
OPINION: Star Wars: Midi-Chlorians and the Mystery of the Force
User Review( vote)