One, Two, Three, Four, I Declare a Cat War (May 1, 2022)

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
After the Intrepid captures Admiral Tolwyn in Wing Commander IV's Peleus series, Blair tells him that he hasn't defected because the Union of Border Worlds isn't officially at war with the Confederation. Tolwyn replies: "We weren’t ‘officially’ at war with the Kilrathi either, but there were two sides. And defection was the only possible movement between them." But… is that true? Let's look at all the references to how the Terran-Kilrathi Wars were 'officially' declared.





What is a Declaration of War?

A declaration of war is a formal statement from the government of a nation that a state of war exists between it and another party. Depending on the government, declarations of war typically give a leadership greater emergency powers, especially dealing with how they are allowed to use their military forces. In the United States, declarations of war must be approved by Congress in order to grant the President such powers. There have been very few formal declarations of war since World War II, largely a result of changes in the legalities of war.

The process by which the Terran Confederation Senate votes on a declaration of war was seen in some detail in Wing Commander IV, where whether or not they choose to declare war on the newly-formed Union of Border Worlds is a major part of the game's story. The novel Fleet Action also shows some of the limitations of not having a state of war declared: during the 'false peace' period in the novel the Confederation is unable to legally launch any offensive operations, preventing them from striking the inbound Kilrathi fleet before it reaches Confederation space.

Wing Commander (1990)

Claw Marks is the first source to mention that the Confederation declared war on the Kilrathi. The short timeline breakouts explain that war was formally declared by the Terran Conferation on the Empire of Kilrah on July 5, 2634. It's interesting to note that the declaration of war precedes the Kilrathi attack on McAuliffe by about two months; the Confederation has declared war because of ongoing piracy rather than a Pearl Harbor style attack.





On 2634.186, war is formally declared by the Terran Confederation on the Empire of Kilrah for countless acts of piracy and unwarranted assault.

A nearly identical entry is included in the timeline in Wing Commander Armada's Voices of War (1994).

On 2634.186, the Terran Confederation officially declares war on the Empire of Kilrah for committing countless acts of piracy and unwarranted assault.

Wing Commander III (1994)

Wing Commander III's Victory Streak manual continues the story introduced in Claw Marks and adds a fair amount of detail about the attacks that led to the July 5, 2634 declaration of war including the specific attack that finally moved the Confederation to act, the destruction of the Anna Magdelena. It also mentions some of the diplomacy that preceded the war, including failed attempts to meet with the Kilrathi government.





2630-2634
The Terran Confederation receives numerous reports of unwarranted assault, space piracy, kidnapping and interplanetary plundering, all taking place at an increasingly expanding distance from the planet Kilrah. Frequent attempts to meet with Kilrathi High Command are rejected without explanation. In retaliation, the Terran Confederation Congress votes unanimously to enforce a strict nonaggression policy by the Kilrathi. The leaders of Kilrah are warned that their next transgression could lead to military reprisals.

2634.186
The Anna Magdelena, a refitted transport ship ferrying orphans to their new homes on Dieno, is openly attacked by a pair of Kilrathi fighters. No one survives. In retaliation for this and the five-year string of equally heinous abuses of all known laws of civility, the Terran Confederation officially declares war on the Empire of Kilrah.

Wing Commander Prophecy (1997)

Origin's OFficial Guide to Wing Commander Prophecy offers a similar take on the beginning of the war, although it adds some small details about the lack of diplomacy between the Confederation and the Kilrathi leading up to the war.

The Kilrathi were first encountered by the Terran Confederation scout ship Iason in 2629. About 20 minutes after first contact, and without previous communication, a Kilrathi ship destroyed the Iason. For the next four years the Kilrathi refused -- violently -- all offers of trade (other than the occasional ransom) or diplomacy, while steadily expanding their piratical operations into Confed Space. In 2634, after the unprovoked destruction of an unarmed transport filled with children, Confed formally declared war on Kilrah.

Wing Commander Action Stations (1998)

The novel Action Stations, which tells the story of the first days of the war, includes a news release announcing that war has been declared. The Action Stations story follows the original Claw Marks timeline exactly but in order to make the McAuliffe Ambush, which is the centerpiece of the novel, more equivalent to Pearl Harbor, Dr. Forstchen significantly downplays the initial declaration of war as a limited action targeting only those responsible for piracy in frontier sectors. We are also told when the announcement was made, at 6 PM GMT.

CONFEDERATION NEWS NETWORK

DATELINE: OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT

OF THE CONFEDERATION

DATE: 2634.186

This evening at 6:00 p.m., GMT Earth, the President announced that a state of war now exists between the Confederation and the Kilrathi Empire. Elements of Task Force Twenty-three have crossed into Kilrathi territory in the Facin Sector on a punitive expedition against supposed centers from which Kilrathi raids had been launched into Confederation territory.

When asked about the scope of the war the President declared that the war is limited in scope and that it is not the intention of the Confederation to seek what he called "a battle of annihilation which can only serve to destroy both sides." When asked to clarify this point, the President stated that it is believed that the attacks along our border were not necessarily actions directed by the Emperor but rather might very well be the activities of rival clan or family leaders seeking to provoke a general war. Our actions, therefore, will be directed solely against those sectors from which verified attacks have previously been launched. Due to the limited nature of this conflict the President made it clear that he does not wish to bring about a general war and has conveyed such sentiments to the Emperor in an open message on a frequency known to be monitored by the Kilrathi. He closed by declaring that the war can be ended at any time when the Kilrathi make a clear effort to bring these provocative factions under control.

Wing Commander (1999)

The opening credits to the Wing Commander movie tell the story of the series' future from the 1960s to the start of the movie in 2654 through a series of stills and audio clips. One of these clips seems to be a news story adapting the original war declaration story: the Confederation is attempting to end Kilrathi attacks diplomatically but ultimately announces the declaration of war instead. The only thing that stands out is that it specifies the war begins at 6 AM instead of the 6 PM stated in Action Stations, though this is easily either a different time zone (New Zealand if it's on Earth!) or a case of the war having formally started at 6 AM but not having been announced by the president until after Task Force 23 began their maneuvers in the Facin Sector.





With escalating tension in the Vega sector... the whole Confederation is on a knife edge. Will these unprovoked attacks continue? Will the diplomatic probes be successful? We can only hope...

I regret to report... that all diplomatic avenues with the Kilrathi... have been exhausted. It is now clear they have no interest... in coexisting with us or any other race. It is my sad duty to inform you... that as of Six A.M. this morning... we are formally at war with the Kilrathi. God help us all.

Wing Commander Confederation Handbook (1999)

Things become somewhat more confused in the media associated with the media. The Wing Commander Confederation Handbook includes an excerpt from an in-universe encyclopedia on the history of the Terran-Kilrathi War which claims two other dates for the start of the war: January 7, 2639, following attacks on two human colonies, and January 9, 2641 in the introduction. Which might make you say… huh?! First of all, it's extremely likely the fact that there are two dates is simply a copyediting mistake that missed that the two dates on different pages needed to be the same. But in either event, that's one or two declarations of war that are half a decade or more removed from what was already established.

On the surface, that is because the Confederation Handbook decided to shift the Kilrathi conflict several years to make room for the Pilgrim War in the early 2630s. Many have wondered why this 'change' was made to Wing Commander's well-established history when nothing in the movie itself seems to necessitate such a reset. The answer has to do with when the Confederation Handbook went to press. One major element of Wing Commander's post production were the introductory credits, which Chris Roberts wanted to use to set the scene, explaining the background of the Confederation, Pilgrims and Kilrathi. But developing that idea took quite a while, with attempts that ranged from a Star Wars style opening crawl, a monologue from Freddie Prinze Jr.'s Blair introducing the setting and then ultimately the more subtle collection of quotes and sketches played over a map of the galaxy that appeared in the final film. Development of the credits was still continuing when HarperEntertainment needed the book to be finalized and printed (some months before the release of the movie). At the time, the plan was for the movie to begin with this introduction read by Blair:

The Pilgrim wars ended 20 years ago. Nobody knows how they started. The history books describe it as the civil war to end all wars. 3 Billion dead and the destruction of the Pilgrim home worlds. All that was left was hate. I should know. My mother was a Pilgrim. My name is Lieutenant Christopher Blair and today I'm off to fight in a new war. This time it's not about territory or independance. It's about survival, for finally we've encountered a race that makes our ability to wage war seem primitive: the Kilrathi, two thousand years of uninterrupted conquest until they met us. Because we have something they don't - The Navcom A.I. a computer with the capacity to chart and navigate black holes and quasars. It's the equalizer - the tool that allows us to travel through deep space, keep the Kilrathi off balance and away from the Confederation homeworlds.

Ironically, this was soon after replaced by an updated version in which twenty was changed to forty, which would've made it very easy to keep the original timeline intact.





History of the Terran-Kilrathi War

The Terran Confederation and the Kilrathi Empire first came into contact on 2638.229, and conflict ensued immediately. On 2641.009, Confed formally declared war. From that day to the present, conflict has continued unabated, and the Kilrathi have uniformly refused any offers of cease-fire, truce or negotiation. At present, neither side possesses any clear-cut strategic advantage, and there are no signs of any abatement of aggression.

...

Following the Iason incident, Confed interdicted all non-military exploratory, trade and colonization activity beyond the Vega sector frontier. At the same time they began a coordinated covert scouting operation to determine the extent of Kilrathi dominion. By the end of '38, Confed analysts had determined that the Kilrathi sphere of influence was at least equal to, and possibly greater than, that of humanity. Four separate envoys (under heavy escort) were sent into Kilrathi space in an attempt to at least open up lines of communication, but all such efforts were met by armed aggression. (All four missions were able to retreat under fire back to Confed space.)

...

The conflict escalated on 2639.006, when a Kilrathi carrier group attacked and destroyed the agricultural colony on Hellespont, an unarmed settlement of assimilated Pilgrims. 82,000 humans were either killed or enslaved in that attack. About 12 hours later, a similar force attacked the shipping port of Tartarus, but that colony was able to hold out until reinforcements arrived from Brimstone Naval Station, and the Kilrathi withdrew after 48 hours of heavy fighting. On 2639.007 less than eight hours after news of the attacks reached Terra the Confederation Senate passed a formal declaration of war against Kilrah.

A Separate Peace, Then Additional War

As mentioned in the introduction, the novel Wing Commander Fleet Action technically does introduce an additional declaration of war against the Kilrathi. The book centers around the Kilrathi asking for an armistice and then secretly dispatching a powerful new fleet to attack Earth during the peace. Towards the end of the book, as the Kilrathi carriers enter Confederation space, the Senate approves a new declaration of war.

Continuity Considerations

The changes in the Handbook have always been one of my least favorite things introduced around the movie, which is a shame on the surface because the book is a wealth of amazing Wing Commander background lore. So is it possible to reconcile these disparate declarations in a single continuity (note 'possible' rather than 'necessary')? Yes! Consider that a simple American history of World War II might say that the war began with Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, or possibly that the war was declared the next day by Congress on December 8. But that's not the whole of it at all: in fact, the United States issued three separate declarations of war over the course of more than six months: Japan on December 8, Germany and Italy on December 11 and then Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary on June 5 of the next year. This last set of countries were allies of Nazi Germany and it was considered wrong at the time to engage in fighting in their territory without a formal declaration of war. And that's just declarations BY the United States.

Could the same be true of Wing Commander? Multiple declarations of war, potentially against multiple definitions of the Empire? Yes, but it might require a reconsideration of the history of the early war. Action Stations very clearly specifies the original July 5, 2634 declaration is "limited in scope" and is aimed not at the Emperor but at the raiders bordering the Confederation. Since the Kilrathi are divided into clans which control different regions, that might mean that the initial declaration of war that we're familiar with was specifically against only, perhaps, the Caxki who are known to control space adjacent to the Confederation. Additionally, it has been established that the Terran Confederation is just one of several allies in the war against the Kilrathi; the others may all have their own declarations.

Instead of throwing out the Confederation Handbook article, it could be seen instead as detailing the early days of the war in a way we had not previously assumed. Very little has ever been specified save the McAuliffe Ambush in 2634 and the Enyo Engagement in 2639. What if the first five years of the war differed from later engagements in some way? The Wing Commander Prophecy guide suggests exactly this:

The first five years of the war were perhaps the most hellish, with the Kilrathi unleashing massive blitzkriegs of suicide fighters at Confed fleets, and indiscrimnately employing weapons of mass destruction against civilian targets. Strategically, the first five years centered around the struggle for the Kilrathi-occupied world of McAuliffe, which was finally retaken by Confed in 2639, in a massive strategic ambush engineered by Captain Geoffrey Tolwyn.

There's a fair amount of history mentioned here that isn't repeatead elsewhere, especially the focus on McAuliffe for the first half-decade of the war. It's possible the battle centered around McAuliffe and random raids and strikes against frontier worlds while the Confederation attempted to establish diplomatic relations (as discussed in the Handbook). Perhaps the Empire waited until Enyo to launch another true invasion, which prompted the 2639 declaration. A functional timeline might work like this:

  • 2634.186 - The Terran Confederation declares war on the regions along its borders.
  • 2634.228-239 - The McAuliffe Ambush ends in a nominal Confederation victory but with severe damage to both fleets.
  • 2634-2639 - Fighting continues; the Confederation, reeling from the losses at McAuliffe and the occupation of territory on the frontier, seeks a diplomatic solution. The Kilrathi launch violent attacks on human colonies but do not make another significant push towards the homeworlds. At some point, McAuliffe falls.
  • 2639.006 - The Kilrathi attack a former Pilgrim Alliance agricultural colony causing heavy casualties.
  • 2639.007 - The Senate declares war "on Kilrah" as a result of attacks on civilians at Brimstone and Tartarus.
  • 2639.033-.042 - The Enyo Engagement widens the scope of the war.
  • 2641.009 - The Senate finally declares war on the Kiranka or the entire Empire.

Is this interpretation necessary? No, but there are so few stories of the early war that it actually teeths together from known sources fairly well (there's also a date added to the Claw Marks timeline in the Super Famicom booklet which talks about a lengthy stalemate that starts in 2642). One added knock-on from this interpretation is that it explains both why different sources have different lengths for the war (generally ranging from thirty to thirty five years) and why some sources set later in the timeline, like the Wing Commander I & II Ultimate Strategy Guide, refer to 'Kilrathi Wars' rather than a singular Kilrathi War (though just the fact that Fleet Action involves an additional declaration of war in late 2668 alone could explain this).

More War?

If you know of another interesting reference to the Confederation's declarations of war against the Kilrathi be sure and let us know in the comments. Otherwise, the next time someone asks you how many times the Terran Confederation declared war on the Kilrathi you can decisively say between zero (Tolwyn in Wing Commander IV) and four (our count)!

--
Original update published on May 1, 2022
 

Wedge009

Rogue Leader
Interesting essay. I just note a couple of typos (I suppose hard to avoid with a piece of this length).

Wing Commander Prophecy (1997)

Origin's OFficial Guide to Wing Commander Prophecy...
...and...
This time it's not about territory or independance. It's about survival...
(independence)

Also:
...more confused in the media associated with the media.
Was this phrasing deliberate? I'm... confused.

That aside, I had wondered a while back about the concept of declarations of war particularly surrounding the current armed aggression in Europe. As you say, changes in the legalities of war since World War II, the United Nations Charter, etc, means that the concept of a formal declaration of war isn't really valid (or shouldn't be) in our current context. I suppose that helps explain the reticence of certain governments to characterise the ongoing fighting in Ukraine as a 'war' (or worse).

Back to the Wing Commander story, in the context of what Tolwyn was saying informally to Blair I think he may have been considering the time before any formal declaration of war against the Kilrathi, or just trying to portray the idea that the lack of a formal declaration of doesn't mean there isn't an actual war being waged. Particularly as the Kilrathi wouldn't necessarily be engaged with the Terran concepts of a formal declaration and just pursuing warfare as a matter of course for their martial culture. Especially considering the False Armistice and other, what Terrans would call, 'underhanded' forms of waging war.

Just going off memory, I was familiar with the early game-related descriptions of declarations of war against the Kilrathi: Claw Marks, Victory Streak, etc. Much less so the publications relating to the movie. It's nice to know these apparently disparate accounts could be reconciled.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
I greatly appreciate the copy pass! I've implemented the changes to the news article (unfortunately they won't propagate back to the forum autopost). That second media was supposed to be 'movie'!
 

AD

Finder of things, Doer of stuff
Wing Commander Confederation Handbook (1999)

Things become somewhat more confused in the media associated with the media. The Wing Commander Confederation Handbook includes an excerpt from an in-universe encyclopedia on the history of the Terran-Kilrathi War which claims two other dates for the start of the war: January 7, 2639, following attacks on two human colonies, and January 9, 2641 in the introduction. Which might make you say… huh?! First of all, it's extremely likely the fact that there are two dates is simply a copyediting mistake that missed that the two dates on different pages needed to be the same. But in either event, that's one or two declarations of war that are half a decade or more removed from what was already established.

On the surface, that is because the Confederation Handbook decided to shift the Kilrathi conflict several years to make room for the Pilgrim War in the early 2630s. Many have wondered why this 'change' was made to Wing Commander's well-established history when nothing in the movie itself seems to necessitate such a reset. The answer has to do with when the Confederation Handbook went to press. One major element of Wing Commander's post production were the introductory credits, which Chris Roberts wanted to use to set the scene, explaining the background of the Confederation, Pilgrims and Kilrathi. But developing that idea took quite a while, with attempts that ranged from a Star Wars style opening crawl, a monologue from Freddie Prinze Jr.'s Blair introducing the setting and then ultimately the more subtle collection of quotes and sketches played over a map of the galaxy that appeared in the final film. Development of the credits was still continuing when HarperEntertainment needed the book to be finalized and printed (some months before the release of the movie). At the time, the plan was for the movie to begin with this introduction read by Blair:



Ironically, this was soon after replaced by an updated version in which twenty was changed to forty, which would've made it very easy to keep the original timeline intact.



The time shift is interesting though IIRC the 40 years line in Blair's voice over was the earlier version. the 20 years versions was a change made seemingly to address a few other issues introduced by the 40 years (which would have worked better with the dates in the handbook) ... Blair is supposed to be 20-ish in the movie, but if the Pilgrim war ended with the Peron Massacre that killed Blair's parents 40 years before then Blair's age doesn't jive. This is because there was originally a forever-war style layer of Time-dilation shenanigans in the first draft of the movie. They minimized and outright removed most of the time dilation elements throughout the progressive iterations of the movie script.

A few elements are left over in the final cut and workprints of the movie. Paladin for example claims to have been Kilrathi POW after being abducted during the attack on the Iason. Blair is surprised by this because a number of different details make Paladin a lot older than he seems. Rosie and Maniac's bed banter also hints and this. Angel is also a pilgrim war orphan apparently but her being older than Blair makes it a bit less problematic to the timeline I suppose. Regardless, removing the time dilation had a number of negative side effects on the movie story. Another element of the script was people not remembering what pilgrims were about, why they were at war and who was at fault. Confed supposedly had a lot of the details scrubbed from the history books, which wouldn't be as big of an issue if the war was only 20 years before. That's pretty recent, relatively speaking.

2634.186
The Anna Magdelena, a refitted transport ship ferrying orphans to their new homes on Dieno, is openly attacked by a pair of Kilrathi fighters. No one survives. In retaliation for this and the five-year string of equally heinous abuses of all known laws of civility, the Terran Confederation officially declares war on the Empire of Kilrah.

20 years puts the Peron Massacre and the end of the pilgrim war roughly at the same time as this... from one war onto the next. But that also means this orphans could have been ophaned because of the Pilgrim war, like Angel, who in the movie claims here parents died in the Pilgrim war.
 

EmuMusicFan

2nd Lieutenant
2634.228-239 - The McAuliffe Ambush ends in a nominal Confederation victory but with severe damage to both fleets.
I guess if we have to define one day as the beginning of thiat war, McAuliffe is the best choice.
And, I think... according to Action Stations, this is perhaps unquestioned answer to Kilrathi. Guess why?
 

EmuMusicFan

2nd Lieutenant
Confed supposedly had a lot of the details scrubbed from the history books, which wouldn't be as big of an issue if the war was only 20 years before. That's pretty recent, relatively speaking.
If so, then there would be a critical problem within the Confederation.
 

AD

Finder of things, Doer of stuff
If so, then there would be a critical problem within the Confederation.
Well, yes. Out of context, the way I worded it sounds bad, but I'm not referring to the morality of them doing it here, just the implications to the timeline. 20 years is a bit short when it comes to propaganda and censorship but 40 is long enough for most of the people who served in that war to retire out. (They also up the death toll from 200 million to 3 billion in the same edit)

As kind of an offshoot from a separate discussion that was had recently, there has been varying attempts over the years at painting Confed as morally grey. While they were definitely the 'good' guys in the Kilrathi war, the details surrounding their actions in the Pilgrim wars make them less so. The Pilgrims were the initial aggressors but a lot of things happened to make Confed's victory somewhat definitive. There was a line cut from Maniac's scene where he tries to convince Blair not to wear his Pilgrim cross that was filmed but cut (perhaps for the better) where he tells blair that Pilgrims lost and "the winners write the rules".
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
I guess if we have to define one day as the beginning of thiat war, McAuliffe is the best choice.

Yes, absolutely. Especially the further you get looking back.

Starship Troopers famously addresses I think exactly this: "The historians can't seem to settle whether to call this one 'The Third Space War' (or the 'Fourth'), or whether 'The First Interstellar War' fits it better. We just call it 'The Bug War' if we call it anything, which we usually don't and in any case the historians date the beginning of 'war' after the time I joined my first outfit and ship. Everything up to then and still later were 'incidents,' 'patrols,' or 'police actions.' However, you are just as dead if you buy the farm in an 'incident' as you are if you buy it in a declared war."

As kind of an offshoot from a separate discussion that was had recently, there has been varying attempts over the years at painting Confed as morally grey. While they were definitely the 'good' guys in the Kilrathi war, the details surrounding their actions in the Pilgrim wars make them less so. The Pilgrims were the initial aggressors but a lot of things happened to make Confed's victory somewhat definitive. There was a line cut from Maniac's scene where he tries to convince Blair not to wear his Pilgrim cross that was filmed but cut (perhaps for the better) where he tells blair that Pilgrims lost and "the winners write the rules".

I think Chris made the right call dropping all the details about the Pilgrim War and just leaving it as a 'I knew your father in the Clone Wars' distant lore reference. A lot of this comes off as extremely corny ("no one is sure who started them") and it's just… not something the movie would manage to get across in an opening scroll or a monologue in a way that means much to the viewers. Even the 'gray Confed' idea doesn't really go anywhere because there's no conclusion and it just doesn't matter to the film's story at all save to maybe have you cheer less for the good guys. So Confed is also censoring something about their past for reasons that are only suggested in the background? It would only serve to make an already unnecessarily complex setup even more baffling to an audience. Like having someone whisper in your ear at four small points during the original Star Wars that also the Rebels hate droids or something but that then having no impact on any other part of the story.

(The unfortunate side effect of removing it, though, is that Blair seems like a total dipstick when he's chatting with Paladin. "Why did the war start?!" Err, it didn't ever come up in your lifetime of being related to both a Pilgrim war hero and a McDanielist? Or in the process of earning the advanced military degree you just completed? Well, maybe go check your local library? (Heh which we know he did because the Confed Handbook is his browser history…)

The time shift is interesting though IIRC the 40 years line in Blair's voice over was the earlier version. the 20 years versions was a change made seemingly to address a few other issues introduced by the 40 years (which would have worked better with the dates in the handbook) ... Blair is supposed to be 20-ish in the movie, but if the Pilgrim war ended with the Peron Massacre that killed Blair's parents 40 years before then Blair's age doesn't jive. This is because there was originally a forever-war style layer of Time-dilation shenanigans in the first draft of the movie. They minimized and outright removed most of the time dilation elements throughout the progressive iterations of the movie script.

I don't think it's the Forever War aspect so much as it is the pretty late decision to kill Blair's parents at all. As of the third draft they're still alive (and living on Earth). The Forever War stuff would've been just another insanely complicated layer that audiences wouldn't be able to follow… but then I suppose 'here are ten great ideas, narrow them down to one that people can follow' is the platonic ideal of editing as a process.
 

AD

Finder of things, Doer of stuff
I think Chris made the right call dropping all the details about the Pilgrim War and just leaving it as a 'I knew your father in the Clone Wars' distant lore reference. A lot of this comes off as extremely corny ("no one is sure who started them") and it's just… not something the movie would manage to get across in an opening scroll or a monologue in a way that means much to the viewers.

I agree to a point. If you have to make do with the bare-bones left over for use in the theatrical cut, then as it is there's still a lot of nothing left over in the movie regarding pilgrims, who are very extraneous to the plot regarding stopping an invasion. And I also agree that the version of the voice-over they came up with in some of the workprints was corny and needed a copy-edit. Should the movie ever get a 'special edition' release someday (if Chris ever stops being solely focused on SC) I do feel it needs something though.

The key to saving the WC movie as-shot in my opinion is embracing the Pilgrim stuff instead of minimizing it. They are at the core of the actual story and climax that center on Blair's personal struggles with identity. We don't really need the details about what happened in that war but I do feel that bit about Blair having experienced hate because his mother was a Pilgrim (though it's repeated later in the movie) is useful for setting up a bunch of emotional cues really early on in the film and help center the viewer on those themes. The movie works to a degree without that bit and lends a little bit of mystery to Blair's cross, but I prefer how having it gives some weight to a few early scenes that benefit from some context.

Right from the get go in the theatrical cut, Blair is seen hiding his cross, and then, when asked about it by Paladin, is super defensive about it. In the expanded scene, this is actually a follow up to Blair asking about Paladin's POW tattoo. Then when arriving at the claw the tattoo scene gets it's follow up with Blair asking him why he doesn't get rid of the tattoo, but with that context we see that Blair is really trying to understand why he can't let go of the cross (which maniac later confronts him about why he's continuing to wear it if it's bringing him so much grief). In another expanded early scene when Tolwyn tells Blair that he had served with Blair's father during the Pilgrim wars, that comment alone gets a bit of boost since we otherwise have no info about what kind of war it was, but especially so when Tolwyn says Blair looks a lot like his father and Blair replies back by saying people say he has his mother's looks. Nearly every ounce of the first hour of the movie is permeated with the Pilgrim threads.


Even the 'gray Confed' idea doesn't really go anywhere because there's no conclusion and it just doesn't matter to the film's story at all save to maybe have you cheer less for the good guys. So Confed is also censoring something about their past for reasons that are only suggested in the background? It would only serve to make an already unnecessarily complex setup even more baffling to an audience. Like having someone whisper in your ear at four small points during the original Star Wars that also the Rebels hate droids or something but that then having no impact on any other part of the story.

(The unfortunate side effect of removing it, though, is that Blair seems like a total dipstick when he's chatting with Paladin. "Why did the war start?!" Err, it didn't ever come up in your lifetime of being related to both a Pilgrim war hero and a McDanielist? Or in the process of earning the advanced military degree you just completed? Well, maybe go check your local library? (Heh which we know he did because the Confed Handbook is his browser history…)

The instincts to minimize the "gray confed" elements aren't bad but that really mostly highlights how the movie really needed another month of proper pre-production with at least one more good pass to refine the script so it could focus on it's core strengths. Rewriting Confed's censoring into something more current to today such as there just being too much conflicting info on who did what and who was at fault would make a lot more sense as to why Blair was confused about things. For the climax they shot though the movie really needed Blair to at least be a little bit sympathetic to the Pilgrim side otherwise it just doesn't work (and arguably it mayyybe doesn't get that across at all in the rough cuts either).

If we were talking about doing a complete do-over though, if they were going to eliminate the traitor plots altogether, it does make sense to just minimize extraneous details from Blair's backstory (at risk of making him seem more bland).
 

Malcolm Reynolds

Rear Admiral
Maybe this is a bit off-topic, but I haven't posted here and years. Sometimes when I'm having a bad day at work, I'll remember the CIC I used to visit all the time and check in to see what you guys are up to. I love coming back to the Wing Commander CIC and finding amazing, passionate posts like this one. As an older game, Wing Commander has become sadly niche but it's great to see fans keeping the spirit alive with deep dives into the lore and spirited discussions. You guys are amazing. I'm going to try to participate more...and maybe one day I'll finish building that Tiger's Claw model...assuming anyone even remembers it!
 
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