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Star Wars | Death Stick Madness: Inside Sleazebaggano's Dirty Habit

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Of all the many weird and wonderful delights introduced to us throughout the Star Wars universe, one of the darker and more illicit pleasures available to those traveling through would be the prospect of buying and perhaps even consuming some death sticks

For many people, the concept of death sticks begins and ends with one particular scene during the second Star Wars prequel, 2002’s Attack of the Clones

The moment occurs when Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) enters the Outlander Club in Coruscant’s Uscru Entertainment District while in pursuit of the shapeshifting bounty hunter, Zam Wesell (Leeanna Walsman). The Jedi Knight is approached by Balosar slythmonger, Elan Sel’Sabagno (Matt Doran) widely nicknamed ‘Elan Sleazebaggano’ who immediately attempts to flog Obi-Wan his ill-gotten wares. 

The subsequent exchange runs like this:

Elan: You wanna buy some death sticks? 
Obi-Wan: You don’t want to sell me death sticks. 
Elan: I don’t want to sell you death sticks. 
Obi-Wan: You want to go home and rethink your life. 
Elan: I want to go home and rethink my life.

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

This article is here to support Databank Dive Episode 2, in which ForceCenter’s Joseph Scrimshaw and Ken Napzok have a ton of fun discussing the same subject.

Give it a listen here 🎙️

It’s all good fun and nicely reminiscent of the popular “these are not the droids you’re looking for” conversation in Episode IV featuring Sir Alec Guinness’s Obi-Wan and a hapless Storm Trooper. Although filmed a full quarter of a century earlier, such is the unusual chronological structure of the franchise, that that particular piece of Jedi trickery of the Storm Trooper still lies some way ahead in Obi-Wan’s future as viewed from his position in Attack of the Clones.

Episode II remains one of the longest of the Star War films and generally speaking isn’t widely remembered for its lightness of touch or for its easy-going, free-wheeling sense of humor. Attack of the Clowns, it is not. Thus, the brief conversation in the bar tends to be regarded as one of the comic highlights of the film. That and Yoda’s later joyous lightsabre battle with Count Dooku towards the end of the film anyway.

So, er…what exactly are death sticks?

“You don’t want to sell me death sticks.” | LucasFilm, 2002.

Stick to Your Guns

According to the Dark Horse comic Star Wars: Legacy (demoted to apocryphal by the scrubbing of the Expanded Universe in 2014), death sticks exist in two different forms: they can either be consumed easily using a red or liquid tube, which contains a highly addictive drug known as ixetal cilona which can be distilled from Balo mushrooms gathered from the planet, Balosar (which probably not entirely coincidentally is the same planet, young Mr. Sel’Sabagno mentioned above, came from). They can also be ingested or injected in a granular form, making them easier to sniff, smoke or snort.

Whichever way death sticks are absorbed, the effect on the user is very much the same. They reportedly generate a hallucinogenic euphoric experience but one which comes with a considerable downside. For yes, they are called ‘death sticks’ for a reason! Firstly, they are indeed sticks. Secondly, they are deadly, containing toxins that massively reduce the lifespan of anyone who consumes it every time they do so. Worse, they are also highly addictive forcing the user to imbibe more and more of them in the hope of achieving the same positive effect each time. They are, in short, bad news. It is perhaps a shame not all dangerous substances have a name which so clearly illustrates the downside of taking them. For death sticks, do basically kill you. One suspects cigarettes would never have taken off, in the same way, had they been given a name as precise as that.

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, according to Star Wars: Legacy, the development of the illicit death sticks has had implications for interplanetary trade which makes the epic dynastic rivalries played out in the Dune franchise seem almost like a petty playground spat by comparison. In short, the illegal trade in death sticks practiced by the Balosars helped encourage serious rivalry between them and the spice trade encouraged by the Twi’leks of Ryloth during the time of the Galactic Republic. And as demonstrated so often before, trade rivalries can lead to interplanetary tension. Which can lead to war.

Elan Sleazebaggano, complete with nightclub bar. |, 2020

Just Say No

In most ways, then, death sticks may be seen to have a similar impact to the existence of illegal drugs in our own world, creating a whole black market of dependent addicts, pushers, and dealers and increasing smuggling while further impacting trade. However, in the Star Wars universe, death sticks serve a further unhelpful societal function: in short, they can block or even destroy the vital connection between a Jedi and the Force.

In Star Wars: Legacy, smuggler, pirate, and former Padawan of Wolf Sazen, Cade Skywalker resorted to death stick use to avoid potentially draining emotional communications with his ancestors, Luke and Anakin Skywalker. However seeing as that’s not canon anymore, maybe death sticks just have bad PR and those squares in the Galactic Senate need to take a chill-pill daddy-o. Could be it’s all just a Reefer Madness-style moral panic, but given slurping green milk directly from the distended midriff teats of a sea cow is de rigor in the Star Wars universe, I’d watch out for the things they actually have banned.

In short, if you ever find yourself inhabiting the Star Wars universe and you encounter someone who attempts to offer you some death sticks, you would be well-advised to follow Obi-Wan Kenobi’s sensible example in Attack of the Clones and simply refuse. And if you happen to possess the ability to deploy a few Jedi mind tricks in the process, all the better.

Actually, lay off the green milk too.

As a member of The Companion, you’re supporting original writing and podcasting, for sci-fi fans, by sci-fi fans, and totally free of advertising and clickbait.

The cost of your membership has allowed us to mentor new writers and allowed us to reflect the diversity of voices within fandom. None of this is possible without you. Thank you. 🙂

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Chris Hallam is a published author and freelance writer based in Exeter. In the past, he has written for magazines such as DVD Monthly and Geeky Monkey. He provided all the written content for the Star Wars Clone Wars and Smurfs annuals for 2014, and the Transformers annual 2015. He continues to write for Yours Retro, Best of British, and The History of Comics, 1930-2030.