“Every saga has a beginning,” reads the tagline of Star Wars: Episode I. Released in 1999, The Phantom Menace was the fourth Star Wars film to be released, but it brings us into the very beginning of the saga of Anakin Skywalker, the catalyst to the events that enveloped the galaxy in the series’ movie iterations.
Key Characters (Roles and Motivations)
Born on the planet of Coruscant, Jinn was a respected Jedi Master and talented lightsaber wielder trained by Jedi Master Dooku, a political idealist.
A firm believer in the will of the Force above all things, Jinn let it lead him, even when in defiance of the Jedi Council or the Jedi Code. To this effect, despite being offered a Council seat, Qui-Gon refused to pursue a path coherent with his beliefs.
Master Jinn’s Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi, was a Jedi Code fundamentalist from Stewjon at the tail end of his training. Despite firmly believing in fully adhering to the Code, unlike his Master, Kenobi had great admiration for Qui-Gon and saw him as a father figure.
The young newly-elected head of the Royal House of Naboo, Padmé Amidala, was a political idealist and pacifist. Despite her humble upbringing, Amidala’s early career in public service and firm beliefs attracted the attention of Naboo’s political elite, leading to her meteoric rise through the ranks.
A young Force-sensitive slave from Tatooine, Skywalker dreamed of outer space while working for junk salesman Otto. In his limited free time, Anakin worked on engineering projects such as a homemade protocol droid and a podracer.
Native to the underwater city of Otoh Gunga in Naboo’s Lake Paonga, Binks was banished from his hometown after crashing the personal submarine of the city’s ruler.
Naboo’s representative to the Galactic Senate, Palpatine was a career politician, hailing from a noble family in Theed. A natural opportunist, he strengthened his connections and cemented his way at the top of the planet’s ruling class before becoming a delegate.
An ambitious businessman from Neimoidia, Nute Gunray rose from relative obscurity into the highest ranks of the Trade Federation after its leadership was assassinated during an attack on a summit.
Viceroy Gunray was in an alliance of convenience with the Sith, who had continuously delivered him power and fortune, so long as he and other Neimoidian leaders of the Federation obeyed their orders.
A mysterious Sith Lord, little was known about Darth Sidius, in keeping with the Sith adherence to maintain a low profile until the time came to challenge the Jedi once more. Sidius took the role of puppeteer within the Trade Federation and the Galactic Senate, coordinating the actions of both to his personal gain.
A Zabrak Sith from the planet of Dathomir, Darth Maul was a Nightbrother and the son of Nightsister Mother Talzin. An aggressive lightsaber yielder, Maul had undergone a torturous training program under Darth Sidius. Sidius killed his own Sith Master upon taking Maul under his wing in keeping with the Rule of Two.
The events in The Phantom Menace take place 32 years before the Battle of Yavin (BBY), but the crisis in the galaxy leading up to it precedes it by a couple of years. The Trade Federation, a large interstellar shipping conglomerate, had been in a collision course with the Republic administration for many years.
The Federation’s accelerated growth had given it enough power and influence to challenge the Galactic Republic for control over trade routes, ultimately providing free passage to corporations aligned with the Federation while extorting competitors.
In 33 BBY, in an attempt to settle differences diplomatically, the Galactic Republic and the Trade Federation leaders sat down during the Eriadu Conference. Still, negotiations were hijacked by an assassination attempt on both parties that killed the Trade Federation’s directorate was killed.
This leadership vacuum was exploited by Neimoidian opportunists, who appointed anti-republican Nute Gunray as the new Viceroy of the Trade Federation.
Having survived the attempt on his life, Republic Supreme Chancellor Finis Valorum used the resulting boost in popularity to pass a Prop 31-814D in the Senate, a resolution enabling the Republic to tax-free Trade Zones to curb the Trade Federation’s influence.
Despite Chancellor Valorum’s move, the Federation’s power under Viceroy Gunray grew to a point where it earned representation in the Galactic Senate, allowing them to barter with the Republic’s leadership politically while working on means to impose their will by force.
A valuable deal was struck with Geonosian leader Poggle the Lesser to construct battle droid foundries, largely at the behest of Darth Sidius. This mysterious figure had become an ally of convenience for the Trade Federation, directing some of its moves from the shadows in exchange for power and money.
With the Federation’s droid army ready for combat, a plan was engineered with the help of Darth Sidius to pressure the Republic into submission by besieging the planet of Naboo, led by Queen Padmé Amidala. While Sidious’ intentions were not entirely clear, his plan presented clear and immediate benefits to Gunray.
Should the plan have played out as intended, the Republic would have bent into the Federation’s demands and accepted terms favorable to it. In case Coruscant resisted, the Federation would have been in a position to starve Naboo into submission and incorporate the planet into its ranks, either via a treaty with Amidala or through a land invasion.
Concerned by the escalation, Republic Chancellor Valorum requested the Jedi Council to secretly dispatch envoys to meet with the Trade Federation’s leadership and negotiate an end to the blockade. The stage was thus set for the beginning of the Anakin Skywalker saga.
On the Republic leadership’s orders, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi arrived aboard the Trade Federation Flagship to meet with Viceroy Nute Gunray regarding the crisis between the Republic and the Federation regarding taxation and the Naboo blockade.
After a routine docking, the Jedi were led to a meeting room, ostensibly to wait for the Viceroy. Unbeknownst to them, Darth Sidius ordered Gunray to entrap and kill the envoys while ensuring the Viceroy that the legal fallout would be handled for him. The Federation’s plan was to forego negotiations and escalate the situation by invading Naboo.
As the meeting room was filled with poison gas, the ship in charge of ferrying the Jedi to and from the meeting was destroyed in the hangar. Nonetheless, Jinn and Kenobi managed to break out of the room and battle their way through waves of battle droids in an attempt to reach the ship’s command deck to confront Gunray.
Their plan was thwarted when the blast doors were sealed before entering, buying time for Federation destroyer droids, equipped with shields, to arrive and rout the Jedi. Out of time and options, Jinn and Kenobi disengage instead of focusing on escaping the ship. The pair decided to stow away aboard Federation landing ships departing to the Naboo surface.
While the Republic’s envoys made their escape, Queen Amidala contacted Viceroy Gunray to protest the blockade. Still, the latter claimed his move had the Galactic Senate’s approval and feigned ignorance about the ambassadors. At the end of the transmission, an order is given to begin jamming communications in Naboo.
This was carried out as Amidala reported to Naboo’s representative, Senator Sheev Palpatine, who assured her that the Chancellor had dispatched envoys to deescalate the situation. Once the transmission was lost, Naboo governor Sir Bibble suggested it must be part of an impending invasion.
The Invasion of Naboo
The Trade Federation’s landing party made its way to Naboo, carrying numerous battle droids, reconnaissance, and armored vehicles to storm the planet’s population centers. The stowaway Jedi deboarded their ships, with Qui-Gon Jinn bumping into Gungan outcast Jar Jar Binks and saving him from a Federation landing craft.
The two rendezvoused with Obi-Wan Kenobi as he was pursued by STAP scout vehicles, which Qui-Gon quickly dispatches. As payback for saving his life, Binks agreed to lead the Jedi down to the underwater Gungan city of Otoh Gunga for a meeting with its leaders regarding the invasion.
At the surface, the Naboo’s capital Theed crumbled under the overwhelming power brought to bear by the Trade Federation. The planet’s leadership, including Queen Amidala and Captain Quarsh Panaka’s security team detachment, was captured alive and held hostage at the palace.
With Naboo under Federation control, Viceroy Nute Gunray landed on the planet and assumed the reins from Queen Amidala’s throne room. The Trade Federation leader put forth an ultimatum: sign over the planet to the conglomerate or face the consequences.
After Amidala refused, Gunray ordered her party to be taken towards Camp Four, a prison camp established by the Federation for Naboo government officials, located at Theed’s largest market square.
At Otoh Gunga, the Jedi met with Gungan Boss Nass but failed to convince him to respond to the Trade Federation invasion due to longstanding tensions between Gungans and Naboo’s surface dwellers.
Nonetheless, Jinn and Kenobi were provided with a submarine because they took banished Gungan Jar Jar Binks with them. En route to Theed, the party was attacked by an opee sea killer, only to have it jumped by a colo claw fish, but both pursuers ultimately fell prey to the massive sando aqua monster. Qui-Gon remarked that ‘there is always a bigger fish’ as the submarine escaped.
The Jedi and Binks surfaced at Theed on time to intercept the Queen and her entourage before they arrived at Camp Four. Jinn and Kenobi quickly eliminated the small number of droids in charge of prisoner transfer.
The Jedi Master and the Queen argued over their next move. Jinn proposed to evacuate Amidala to Coruscant, where she would be safe to protest the invasion on the Galactic Senate floor.
Still, the Queen felt reluctant to leave her people and planet in times of trouble. Nonetheless, given the impossible challenge posed by the Trade Federation’s advanced weaponry, she conceded that there is little option but to head for Coruscant.
Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padmé Amidala, and the rest of their entourage managed to reach the Royal Starship, a handcrafted J-type 327 Nubian and sought to make a blockade run.
While a capable craft, the ship was not configured for this type of confrontation and struggled against the Trade Federation’s firepower. The Royal Starship’s shields and hyperdrive were critically damaged during the engagement, and it only managed to escape due to valiant actions of its astromech droids, namely R2-D2.
On the Run
Though the Queen managed to escape the Naboo blockade successfully, the ship’s status after the engagement made it too risky to continue towards Coruscant. With few alternatives, the party agreed to divert to the Outer Rim planet of Tatooine to keep a low profile while replacement parts were procured.
Darth Sidious, furious upon hearing that the Federation had lost custody of the Queen, delegated the problem to his apprentice. Darth Maul was dispatched to track down and capture the Queen while eliminating the Jedi. The Sith Lord’s hope was to force Amdala to sign the treaty surrendering Naboo to the Trade Federation.
The significance of this order went beyond the strife between the Republic and the Trade Federation: it was the first time in almost a millennium where the Sith would operate overtly again.
Despite being ordered to stay on the ship, Queen Amidala disguised herself as a handmaiden and followed Qui-Gon Jinn and Jar Jar Binks into Mos Espa in search of hyperdrive parts. The Jedi master attempted to use the Force to convince Toydarian junkyard owner Watto to make a favorable deal, but this had no effect.
The party became acquainted with one of the trader’s slaves; a young boy called Anakin Skywalker, who invited them to his home. The child opened himself up to the visitors, sharing his passion as an inventor, showcasing his homemade protocol droid C3-PO and talking about his home-built podracer.
Short of money and leverage with Watto, the next day, Jinn convinced him to enter Anakin Skywalker and his podracer into the Boonta Eve Classic race – should Skywalker win, Watto would keep the handsome reward in exchange for the hyperdrive and Anakin’s freedom. Jinn and Amidala helped Skywalker complete his vehicle in time with the race approaching.
After a busy day of maintenance and testing, they retired to Skywalker’s home once more, where Qui-Gon helped clean a cut in the child’s hand and collected a blood sample in the process. This revealed that Anakin’s midi-chlorian count was higher than any previously known, with the startling result relayed to Kenobi.
Skywalker managed to fight his way through dirty opponents and a dangerous track during the race, edging favorite Sebulba to the finish line after most competitors were taken out. Honoring the deal, Watto handed over a T-14 hyperdrive generator and allowed Anakin Skywalker to leave with Jinn.
Back at the ship, Jinn’s apprentice Obi-Wan worked on replacing the hyperdrive while Skywalker packed his belongings at Mos Espa. Unbeknownst to them, Darth Maul had landed in Tatooine and dispatched probe droids to track down their location, with one of them being destroyed by Qui-Gon.
As the fugitive party prepared to depart in the evening, the Sith attempted to ambush them. The Jedi master struggled to fend off Maul’s attacks but allowed Skywalker to board the ship safely and expedite the takeoff.
As the Naboo Royal Starship departed, Qui-Gon Jinn defended a blow and jumped onto the ramp. Finally safe and with a fully operational ship, they departed towards Coruscant.
After being defeated on the battlefield, Queen Amidala could only chase a political solution to the crisis. On arrival, she was greeted by Naboo’s representative in Coruscant, Senator Palpatine, accompanied by Chancellor Valorum.
Later at the Senator’s quarters, he confided in her that corruption had become rife in the Senate, with any serious motion against the Trade Federation’s invasion of Naboo likely die on the floor. Palpatine singled out Chancellor Valorum as central to the problem, arguing that he had little power compared to bureaucrats running the Republic from the sidelines.
Amidala’s best hope, according to the delegate, was to either call for a vote of no confidence on the chancellor or to plead her case to the Galactic Courts of Justice.
Elsewhere in Coruscant, Jinn, Kenobi, and Skywalker reported to the Jedi Council. Qui-Gon brought up the attack by Darth Maul and the implication that the Sith may have indeed returned.
He also proposed to induct Anakin into Jedi training in the near-future under the guidance of his Padawan, Obi-Wan, who was due to receive the rank of Jedi Knight. Council members tested Anakin and confirmed he was Force-sensitive but concerned about his emotional turmoil.
Following Palpatine’s advice, Queen Amidala called for an emergency session of the Galactic Senate. The Senator and Queen pleaded for assistance against the Trade Federation’s assault. However, Federation Senator Lott Dod, dismissed their speeches as baseless accusations and proposed forming a fact-finding commission instead.
In an attempt to stay neutral, Chancellor Valorum agreed to table the establishment of a commission to the ire of Queen Amidala. The Naboo leader refused to withdraw her initial plea and doubled down by submitting a motion of no confidence against Valorum.
This outburst sent senators into a frenzy, but after Vice-Chancellor Mas Amedda reestablished the order, a decision was made to move ahead with the motion of no confidence.
For the first time in years, the Galactic Senate’s response was swift: a representative majority voted to remove Finis Valorum as the Chancellor, leaving the door open for candidates Sheev Palpatine, Bail Antilles of Alderaan, and Ainlee Teem from Malastare.
Having done what she could in Coruscant, Queen Amidala was ready to see out the crisis alongside her people in Naboo, despite Senator Palpatine’s objections.
At the Jedi Council, Jinn and Kenobi were summoned again. Their request to train Anakin Skywalker had been denied due to his relatively advanced age. Moreover, the two were tasked with protecting Amidala during her return to Naboo while also investigating the possible reemergence of the Sith.
The Naboo Resistance
While the Naboo Royal party’s visit to Coruscant successfully uprooted the stagnant leadership in the Galactic Senate, it still failed to convince the Republic to intervene in the planet’s favor.
Upon returning to her home planet, Padmé Amidala decided to offer an olive branch to the Gungan so that their peoples could unite against the Trade Federation’s attack.
Initial attempts to locate them at Otoh Gunga found the city abandoned, but local Jar Jar Binks led them to the Gungan Sacred Place. In this sanctuary, his people normally assembled during troubled times.
Boss Nass initially distrusted the outsiders but agreed to the alliance after Padmé, disguised as a handmaiden, revealed herself to be the Queen of Naboo and humbled herself before him. It was time for the two leaders to devise a plan.
The Grand Gungan Army made a conventional large-scale defense against the battle droids as a diversion. Meanwhile, Captain Panaka’s men were tasked with breaking out prisoners from one of the camps to bolster the resistance’s numbers. Together with the Jedi, this resistance party quietly made their way to Theed using a secret passageway in the city’s waterfalls.
The new allies set their plan in motion with the details laid out. Unaware of the plan to infiltrate Theed, Darth Sidius ordered Gunray to wipe out the Grand Gungan Army.
The Naboo surface resistance party managed to fight their way into the hangar hosting the planet’s small starfighter fleet, where the group split in two. Amidala, Panaka, and the royal house security, aided by the Jedi, proceeded towards the throne room where Gunray had established his command.
Meanwhile, the pilots rescued from the camp manned their fighters and departed to attack the Federation battleship leading the droid army. This would allow them to disable the occupation forces without having to defeat them in direct combat; a task considered impossible even with Gungan assistance.
Qui-Gon Jinn’s protégé Anakin Skywalker was caught in the action, who was ordered to take shelter in one of the Naboo starfighters under the custody of astromech droid R2-D2.
The plan was thwarted by the appearance of Sith Lord Darth Maul. Jinn and Kenobi stayed behind to duel the mysterious foe while the Naboo resistance headed for the throne room. The battle for Naboo had reached its climax.
The Final Battles
The clashes in Naboo raged across different fronts. On the Great Grass Plains, the Great Gungan Army faced the might of the Trade Federation’s droids to draw them away from Theed.
In the Naboo palace, Queen Amidala and her security team conducted a raid to capture Viceroy Gunray. In the adjacent hangar, two Jedi faced a Sith in lightsaber combat for the first time in centuries. At the planet’s orbit, outnumbered Naboo fighter pilots attacked the Trade Federation’s capital ship.
Great Grass Plains
The outnumbered Grand Gungan Army assembled under three mobile shield generators. As Federation landing ships and tanks came down from the hills, their field commander’s attempts to engage with long-range heavy fired proved fruitless against Gungan defenses.
Noticing the ineffectiveness of the initial attack, the droid army pulled back heavy weaponry, opting instead to deploy waves of battle droids tasked with closing the distance to the Gungan Army.
Despite their best efforts to engage with artillery and area-effect weapons, Gungan defenses were gradually eroded by the droid assault, with the shield generators folding under concentrated fire. Using this opening, the Trade Federation recommitted its mechanized force consisting of tanks, armed landing craft, and scout vehicles. This force wreaked havoc into Gungan ranks.
Through several strokes of luck, newly-promoted Gungan general Jar Jar Binks severely damaged or destroyed a number of droids and vehicles before releasing a cache of large boomas towards the Federation’s assault.
Captain Tarpals rescued Binks from behind enemy lines and aided him in destroying a tank, but the pair eventually fell prisoner to the droids together with most of the Grand Gungan Army.
Throne Room Raid
As Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi held back Darth Maul, the Royal raiding party was forced to take the long way round through the ceremonial hall. When faced with a group of battle droids, the party split up.
The first group, led by handmaiden Sabé disguised as the Queen, proceeded through the palace corridors. Meanwhile, Padmé, Panaka, and others exited through the first-floor windows and used ascension guns to reach the throne room level.
Mere meters away from their target, Padmé’s party was ambushed by destroyer droids. Surrounded and outgunned, the Queen ordered her team to lay down arms. The group had been captured once more and were led to the throne room where Viceroy Gunray and Federation official Rune Haako awaited.
The captivity was not for long, however: Sabé and her team entered the scene and led the Viceroy to believe she was the leader of Naboo. While the droids shifted focus to her, Padmé opened a hidden arms cache and rearmed her team, which was able to use the confusion to dispatch the droids quickly, seal the throne room doors and capture the leaders of the Trade Federation.
Theed Generator Duel
Elsewhere in the Naboo Royal Palace, Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi fought Sith Lord Darth Maul towards the innings of the Theed power generator. Despite their numerical advantage, the Jedi struggled to hold their ground due to their inexperience in fighting a Sith.
Maul jumped floors between the catwalks in the generator and successfully separated Obi-Wan from Qui-Gon, who stayed in the fight. The Master managed to force his foe back down where Kenobi awaited, but laser walls separated the three of them. Jinn meditated as Maul paced back and forth in anticipation.
When the duel resumed, the Sith stunned the Jedi by hitting him with his double lightsaber’s handle and stabbed Qui-Gon in the chest, mortally wounding him. Obi-Wan, overcome with grief and hatred, went on the offensive.
The Padawan cut Darth Maul’s lightsaber in half but was caught off-guard and pushed into the cooling pit of the generator, clinging onto a pipe for his dear life as his lightsaber was thrown past him.
Plotting his counterattack as Maul attempted to force him down, Kenobi jumped over the Sith Lord, used the Force to call Jinn’s lightsaber to him, and struck a swift blow across Darth Maul, who fell down the shaft with his body cut in two.
Bravo Squadron of the Naboo Space Fighter Corps began their attack on the Droid Control ship. The unit had been joined by podracer pilot Anakin Skywalker and R2-D2, after the pair accidentally started up the N-1 starfighter they were sheltering in. When R2-D2 prompted the child to return, Anakin argued that his orders were specifically to “stay in the cockpit.”
The pilots made several attack runs against the Federation control ship while fending off waves of droid starfighters. Skywalker’s ship, overheating from his mismanagement, made an emergency landing in one of the droid capital ship’s hangar bays.
As he tried to troubleshoot the problem, Anakin accidentally fired a salvo of proton torpedoes, which found their way to the Federation control ship’s main reactor.
With his fighter operational again, Skywalker made a narrow escape from the hangar as the explosion ripped through the ship, shutting down the entire Trade Federation droid army on the surface of Naboo. They defeated Great Gungan Army and suddenly found themselves free of their captors and celebrated the success of their Naboo allies.
A New Era Begins
In the Theed Reactor, Obi-Wan held Qui-Gon in his final moments. The Master’s last orders to his Padawan were to train the young Skywalker in the ways of the Jedi, reinforcing his belief that Anakin is The Chosen One meant to bring balance to the Force.
With Naboo fully liberated, a party from Coruscant arrived to deal with the battle’s aftermath. Sheev Palpatine, newly elected as the Galactic Chancellor, congratulated Queen Amidala on saving their homeworld and announced the trial against Trade Federation Viceroy Nute Gunray.
At the Royal Naboo Palace, Jedi Grand Master Yoda conferred upon Obi-Wan Kenobi the rank of Jedi Knight, symbolizing the end of his training. The two argued whether to induct Skywalker – the Grand Master still had reservations due to the child’s troubled mind, but the Council had given Kenobi permission to take him up as his apprentice.
Master Qui-Gon Jinn’s body was cremated in a traditional Jedi burial in the Theed temple. During the ceremony, Masters Windu and Yoda shared concerns over the existence of another Sith Lord despite Darth Maul’s demise, referring to the Rule of Two – after being forced into exile, to preserve their secrecy, the Sith kept to only having a Master and an Apprentice at any given time.
A joint celebration between the Naboo and Gungan people was held on the capital city’s streets. Queen Amidala presented a gift of appreciation to Boss Nass, watched by Obi-Wan and Anakin, now formally dressed as a Jedi and sporting the braid marking his status as a Padawan.
Question: Why is Star Wars Episode 1 Called The Phantom Menace?
Answer: The chronological beginning of the Anakin Skywalker arc is called The Phantom Menace due to the blockade and subsequent invasion of Naboo being merely the front end of a conspiracy running much deeper within the Galactic Republic.
Question: How Much Older is Padmé than Anakin?
Answer: Padmé Amidala is five years older than Anakin Skywalker.
Question: Who is Anakin Skywalker’s Father?
Answer: Shmi Skywalker conceived her son without a father, which led Qui-Gon Jinn to believe Anakin was The Chosen One.
Question: When was Star Wars: Episode I Released?
Answer: The film premiered in May 1999, appearing in VHS format a year later.
The Battle of Naboo marked a turning point between the Galactic Republic and its political foes. It was the first time in decades where the divide escalated from diplomacy and episodic skirmishes into a full-scale conventional battle on the territory of a planet with a Republic seat.
While the Trade Federation’s droid army was defeated in Naboo, the organization’s industrial capacity and galactic ambitions continued to grow.
At Coruscant, the appointment of then-Senator Palpatine as Chancellor was made on anti-corruption promises, but many systems did not feel the new leadership was seriously committed to curbing corporate influence in the Galactic Senate. The separatist sentiment brewing from this continued to grow and headed towards a breaking point.
Having defeated Darth Maul in combat, Obi-Wan Kenobi did not have to pass the traditional Jedi Trials required for the title of Knight.
Kenobi’s young age combined with an old Padawan troubled some members of the Jedi Council like Grand Master Yoda. Obi-Wan’s firm belief in the Jedi Code throughout the child’s training would often be at odds with his promise to fulfill his Master’s dying wish.
After the fighting in Naboo, the lull created a tense atmosphere across the galaxy, setting the stage for the next chapter in the saga.
Looking for more interesting readings? Check out: