Moff Jerjerrod is the last Imperial officer of the old trilogy. He appears in Return of the Jedi, even though his full name is shown only in the credits. You might recall him as the poor fellow who, in the very beginning of the film, welcomes Darth Vader to the Death Star and is being questioned regarding the project’s progress. He shares the traits of most of the Imperial officers: being confronted with Vader, he shows fear and desperately tries to please the Dark Lord.
His role would be very small and insignificant, if it weren’t for a few scenes which had been deleted from the final version of the film, and which, had they made it to the final cut, would have made Jerjerrod shine as possibly the most memorable of all the Imperials.
These scenes have all been filmed, and appear among the extra features on the eighth disc of 2011 Blu-Ray release of Star Wars. I highly recommend to anyone with even the slightest interest in the matter to watch them. There is one scene when Jerjerrod does not allow Darth Vader into the Emperor’s presence, and he nearly gets executed for it (in a typical Vader-esque manner). That wouldn’t be so special, because he does it on Emperor’s orders, although you have to admit the man who defies Vader to his face has some spirit. But there is another batch of scenes which are even more interesting and which defy all the stereotypes about Imperials as pure evil fellows lacking any basic human decency and qualities such as compassion and empathy.
In the original script (or, to be precise, in the uncut film), Jerjerrod was overseeing the Emperor’s contingency plan. Had the Rebels managed to destroy the shield generator on Endor, he was under the orders to aim Death Star’s rays against the forest moon and destroy it, wiping out all Rebels responsible for it in their moment of triumph.
In the uncut version, the Emperor would send this order to Jerjerrod right in front of Luke Skywalker, making sure he knew that his friends are lost – this would certainly help the plan to break Skywalker and bring him to the dark side. The Emperor’s words to Luke, “… and your friends on the Endor moon will not survive” achieve much more sinister and final tone when heard in this context.
So does also another of the Emperor’s proclamations: “An entire legion of my best troops await them.” Let us think about what would this mean for an Imperial commander – and us taking it literally: we are looking at the most dedicated soldiers of the whole Empire, presumably heroes commended for valiant deeds in defending the best galactic civilisation against disorder in the form of rebels, pirates and other “scum”. We know that the Emperor is crazy enough to wipe them out together with the moon if he feels it is necessary; to him, they are expandable tools. But what are they for Jerjerrod?
In the deleted scenes, we return to him just as the shield comes down, and again as Rebel fighters are entering the superstructure. He follows the Emperor’s order and moves Death Star into position to destroy the moon, and already that with some reluctance. But once everything is ready, he has to make the decision, and there, it is fully shown that he is taking in all the riercussions and that they weigh him down. His final call leaves him clearly devastated.
I really enjoy every moment of these scenes, watching Michael Pennington, Jerjerrod’s actor, changing his facial expression slowly, showing us the struggle that goes on inside the commander’s mind. It is more of a theatrical performance, and the emotion radiates very strongly from there. No wonder, given where Mr. Pennington’s acting career has stayed throughout most of his life. He is, most of all, a stage actor, and to speak of him in connection to Moff Jerjerrod, is much less appropriate than, say, to speak of him in connection to Hamlet or King Lear. With his history in Royal Shakespeare Company and being co-founder of the English Shakespeare Company, it is easy to see that promoting classic theatre has been a major force in his life. He made a decision in his life not to pursue the film career further and instead remain close to the live performance, but who knows what his life could have been like. Such a talented actor in the film is perhaps a bit wasted on a minor role, and more the pity that most of the material was cut.
But it still exists. And as such, it gives a side to the Imperial officers which is not as clearly visible anywhere else in the films: that they are, beneath the stern complexion and the uniform, just another kind of human beings in the wide Galaxy. It makes them more multidimensional characters, and therefore more realistic. With that in mind, I am going to watch the new films and look forward to hopefully seeing the coming villains also in a similar light, as complex personas and not just pure evil cardboard characters. They have good forerunners already in the officers of the old trilogy.
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