25 February 2016

The Weapons of Sci-Fi: The Lightsaber

The sword has been around since the 3rd century BCE, and it was one of the primary weapons of warfare until the invention of the portable firearm in the 17th century. Even beyond when the swords fell into disuse, swords and the warriors that wielded them became a symbol and a source of inspiration. Throughout the realms of science fiction and fantasy, the sword continues to be seen and worshipped. However, the greatest of all fictional swords came to us in 1977 with the original Star Wars. Today, the lightsaber is one of the greatest fictional science fiction weapons and unlike many of the weapons of science fiction that FWS has discussed previously, the Star Wars Lightsaber is not an energy sword some sort of blaster or caseless rifle. Oh, this blogpost will be a little tongue-in-cheek.

Before We Begin...a Word about Canon vs. Noncanon
Since the first days of the original Star Wars film, new stories were developed by other creators in the universe. Some became part of the official lore of Star Wars universe, like the massive Expanded Universe that told the story beyond the Battle of Endor. However, when Disney bought Star Wars, they decided to eliminate the old Expanded  Universe tales to make room for their new "official" films that would fill in the events after the destruction of the 2nd Death Star. All of those stories and events were reclassified as "Legend". In this blogpost, FWS will be using portions of the old unofficial universe, mostly the Tales of the Jedi comics by Dark Horse, to fill in the history of the Lightsaber. I honestly do not care if it is canon or not...zero fucks given here. I am attempting, for the most part, to keep the canon material of the films, but we will taking from other sources...and not taking all of this too seriously.

What is the Lightsaber?
The Lightsaber is an two piece directed energy melee weapon system that is a hallmark of Force-sensitive individuals. One part is the hilt that contains the power cell, kyber crystal and other mechanical elements that allow the second part of the weapon to be emitted. This second part is the fountain of highly powerful plasma energy that has been focused via the kyber crystal into a cylinder-shaped three foot "blade" of various colors . This energy blade is one of the most powerful offensive/defensive personal/close quarters weapons in the Star Wars universe that can cut through nearly anything.
This awesome power comes at a great energy cost, and while the power cell is highly dense and has a long operational life, Lightsabers are only activated when they are absolutely needed. Given its great lethal abilities, the Lightsaber is normally only seen in the hands of Force sensitive individuals; but it rarely wielded by non-Force sensitive individuals. Technically, the term "Lightsaber" references to the single blade sword-type, but is a broad term that can be applied to other similar weapons like the Lightwhip and the Jedi Guard Pike, and the saberstaff. While the Lightsaber as we know it has been around for about 8,000 years, it was briefly banned under the Sith-controlled Galactic Empire. During the height of the Jedi Order, there were seven forms of Lightsaber combat with each building on one another and to the times in which they were developed.

What Does the Lightsaber Represent to the Jedi/Sith?
In the prequels, it is mentioned several times that the Lightsaber is critical to the life of the Jedi, and this was also true of the view of the Samurai on their swords as well...so, what does the Lightsaber mean to the Jedi/Sith? For one, the Lightsaber represents the Jedi and the Sith themselves, because in the world of the Star Wars universe, they are unique in their usage of these energy swords. Also, the carrying of the weapon is a mark of Jedi emerging from the Temple and into the field with their Master. Due to the deadly nature of the Jedi's vocation, the Lightsaber represents their main method of defense and offense against any form of attack. The outlook on the weapon varies from the Jedi to the Sith. The Jedi see the Lightsaber as a tool of defense and do not normally use it to kill outright, while the Sith think the opposite.

The Abilities of the Lightsaber

In the Star Wars universe, the lightsaber is one of the most powerful personnel weapons and has fearsome capabilities in close quarters warfare within the hands of a skilled user. When pitted against non-Lightsaber users, one slash or stab was enough to kill or maul their opponent. In Lightsaber combat forms, the act of cutting off the limbs of their enemy called Cho Mai and was part of the standardized training. In saber-vs.-saber combat, the offensive abilities of the Lightsaber were very akin to an standard sword, however, given the grim effectiveness of the energy blade, one contact was often enough to kill or disable the opponent.
Some Lightsaber wielders, like Obi-Wan Kenobi, were able to take advantage of the penetration power of the weapon, and destroy their opponent's Lightsaber. One of the disadvantages of the Lightsaber from other weapon systems is range. Like a standard combat sword, the Lightsaber blade is around three feet, this limits the ability for the Force user to project offensive power. To extend the range of the lightsaber, some Jedi/Sith had developed the technique of tossing their lightsaber at their opponent. At times, this throw is enhanced by the Force. This is a risky maneuver, and could leave the wielder defenseless against another opponent. Some Force users have also trained to use the Force to retrieve their lightsaber, like Thor does with Mjolnir or Jubei Kibagami does with the string attached to his Katana. This tactic requires skill, experience, and good judgement.
Lastly, one of the most handy offensive abilities of the Lightsaber is its ability to cut through most material in the Star Wars universe. While this is said countless times, it is best seen in the opening of Epsiode I, when Master Qui-Gon uses his Lightsaber to cut through the heavily reinforced doors of the Trade Federation, we can witness how powerful the Lightsaber is and how handy this universal opener could be in some situations. As FWS discussed in our Close Quarters Warfare blog article, CQW team use a number of entry tools on various types of obstructions. Jedi and Sith don't have to do that. Their weapon-of-choice is a default universal can-opener.

The Lightsaber has evolved and coexisted alongside the directed energy weapons of the Star Wars universe, the blaster. The blaster is an ranged particle-beam weapon that fires bolts of directed energy, and given that they are insanely common in the Star Wars galaxy, that is the primary weapon that Jedi/Sith encounter in hostile situations. Given that the Lightsaber is basically a sword, its range is very close range, causing the wielder of the Lightsaber to engage in close quarters warfare tactics to counter the blaster and incoming fire.
That mostly involved blocking incoming blaster bolts and even redirecting them. This ability to block bolts of lethal directed energy moving at the speed of light is only possible with Force-sensitive individuals and the soft-science universe of Star Wars. In saber-verse-saber engagements, the Lightsaber behaves as a standard sword, allowing for blocks and counters.This can defensive tactic be accomplished by Force-sensitive individuals and non-Force-sensitive individuals alike.

Why are Energy Swords in Star Wars Anyways?
The simple answer? Because George Lucas wanted to include laser swords into his space-fantasy universe and because he is smart. Star Wars universe is a fusion of science fiction and adult fairy tale that liberally borrows elements from both genres to create the familiar universe we know and love today. Since swords have long held a mythical quality, along with the warriors that wield them and there is countless examples of mythological swords found in all global cultures and works. This fosters an instant and universal bond to the Lightsaber that no other sci-fi weapon has been able to establish.
Lucas inclusion of the mythical warriors, the Jedi, and their magical weapon, the Lightsaber, bonded his creation to countless other works and allow Star Wars to tap into some common among all of us.This was Lucas being smart, but it was also him paying homage to his own inspiration for the Jedi: the Samurai. The Katana was the soul of the Samurai warrior and their social class in feudal Japanese society. These swords could only be worn by the Samurai, and if any lower class offended the Samurai, they could use their iconic sword to cut them down. The wearing of these swords became the symbol of the Samurai for hundreds of years until the practice was banned in 1876 by the Meiji Government under the Haitorei Edict. Lucas offer discusses his love of Akira Kurosawa films, and those influenced the basic concept of the Jedi and their energy sword. There was also another way Lucas was being smart with the inclusion of magical energy sword of the Jedi: an enduring symbol. The Lightsaber is the most recognized sci-fi weapon in the world, and the Lightsaber separates Star Wars from the herd of science fiction cinema; making Star Wars unique. Oh, and it also allows for a great tie-in toy!

The History of the Lightsaber
The technical evolution of the Lightsaber has been over tens of thousands of years in the Star Wars galaxy with both the Jedi, Sith, and other Force users contributing to its development into the weapon we see today. The beginning of the Lightsaber was an actual physical sword wielded by Force user some 30,000 BBY, and the Force itself hardened and enhanced the blade, taxing the user and demanding a high-level of focus and ability. This weapon was called the Force-Imbued Blade, and the downside to this weapon was that the user had to be strong with the Force to control the molecular structure of the blade. This weapon was used by the ancient Force users of the Je'daii Order of Tython. Then came the "Frozen blaster" sabers that used focusing crystals with laser technology shared by visitors to the Jedi dawnworld of Tython.
The first weapon that looks and operates like the Lightsaber of current, is the Rakatan Forcesaber and the Proto-Saber. The Rakata were a race of aliens that used the Dark Side of the Force to construct an empire many thousands of years ago, and one of the weapons of the Force Hounds was the Forcesaber. This weapon came into the hands of more modern Dark Force users via General Daegen Lok. The issue with the Forcesaber, which channeled the Dark Side of the Force through crystals to form an energy blade, was that it required Light Side Force users to walk the dangerous path towards the Dark Side. What the Light Sider of the Force warriors needed was a weapon that generated an energy blade, but was not edging the Force user to walk the path towards the Dark Side of the Force. Another technological issue was the power requirement for energy blades. The weapon that allow the early Jedi Knights to wield energy swords was the Proto-Saber.

While the energy blade of the Proto-saber and the current Lightsaber is similar, the primary difference is the external power pack and the power cord. Much like the nuclear-powered siege weapons that generated energy blades used to destroy enemy fortifications, these ancient Lightsabers needed a massive amount of power, and the only way to supply that power was the external power pack. This power pack and cord limited some of the abilities of the Jedi, Sith, and Dark Jedi, it allowed the wielder to cut through other bladed weapons, body armor, and bodies.
This weapon was seen on the battlefields of 100 Year Darkness and the Great Hyperspace War. It would be until after 5,000 BBY that the Sith were able to compact the Proto-Lightsaber external power sources into the classical hilt of modern Lightsabers. It was until the Great Hyperspace War that the Proto-saber and the hilt Lightsaber clashed, leading Jedi warriors to use Sith Lightsaber technology to modify their own Proto-saber to the all-in-one hilt style used today. By 4,800 BBY, the old Proto-saber was abandoned and all Force users embraced the new, more effective Sith technology. It is interesting that for awhile, the Sith used Sith-Swords instead of Lightsabers around this time.
After this, the Lightsaber change little until the Clone Wars. The biggest change was the use of naturally forming crystals from IIum by the Jedi Order caused less variety in color of Jedi lightsaber energy blades to mostly green and blue. The next change would be during the Clone Wars, when the basic design of the Lightsaber was altered to be more "combat" centered with the Lightsaber being rigorized and expanded energy cells from the more defensive Lightsabers of the peaceful years. This would the last of the Jedi Lightsabers for sometime, with the Order being wiped out by Order 66 and Lord Vader. The Jedi who survived were on the run, and hid their Lightsabers. While the Lightsabers were banned by the Empire, there was an underground collectors' black market and some new ones being constructed by underground cells of Jedi passing down the old ways to a new generation; along with some being built by Imperial Jedi hunters.
After the destruction of the Empire, formation of the First Order and the New Republic came from out of the ashes along with Master Skywalker's new Jedi Order. He began training new generation of Jedi on Yavin  until the rise of Kylo Ren and the Knights of Ren. Ben Solo was corrupted by the Dark Side of the Force, leading to the formation of the Knights of Ren, who were other training Jedi under Master Skywalker, until turning to the Dark Side and becoming a clan of Fallen/Dark Jedi warriors of their master. At some point, there was a battle between the Light Siders and the Dark Siders, and the Knights of Ren emerged victorious, causing Luke Skywalker to go into self-imposed exile. The only Lightsaber being used in the post-Rebellion period is the imperfect crossguard Lightsaber that uses an cracked crystal to create a more violent and fearsome blade of red crackling energy and its seems to be based around an European Longsword. As the new films move forward, so will the history of the Lightsaber.  

Why Are Lightsabers the Weapon-of-Choice for Force-Sensitive Individuals?
In a universe where Blasters, a directed energy weapon, are extremely common, why would Force-Sensitive individuals even use these archaic melee weapons? First, not all Force-Sensitive individuals abandon the use of traditional DEWs. Luke Skywalker is seen in SW: TESB carrying his father's Lightsaber and a DL-44 Blaster and recently, we've seen Ezra from SW: Rebels using an Lightsaber/blaster hybrid design.
One reason could be found in just what Obi-Wan Kenobi said in SW:ANH: that it is a civilized weapon for a civilized organization. According to Lucas, the Jedi were to be like Old Western Marshall that keep the peace in the Old Republic. To foster that sense of peace, the Jedi used the Lightsaber in a mostly defensive manner. There was even an entire Jedi Martial Art (Shii-Cho) developed around using the Lightsaber to disarm and not arm the opponent. Coupled with the abilities of the Force, this could make the Jedi more akin to Aikido than Judo or Jeet Kune Do. Since there are very few who wielded the Lightsaber in the SW universe, it also allows these rare individuals to be immediately recognized by the unwashed masses and for those non-Force sensitive individuals to recognize the power that they wield in that energy blade. This makes the use of the Lightsaber by Jedi/Sith/Fallen/Dark Jedi to be a psychological weapon that generates fear as well as respect in their hands.
There is also some that say that Force-sensitive individuals are able to maximize the effectiveness of the Lightsaber by tapping into the Force. As I said above, a non-Force sensitive individual can use most of the offensive abilities of the Lightsaber, but its primary defensive ability, intercepting incoming DE bolts, is lost on non-Force users. The ability of Force-sensitive individuals to interact with the Lightsaber and other similar weapons, could be the primary reason for their usage by Force users, and there could be a lack of interaction with blasters and other DEWs. Another seems to be tradition. For thousands of years, Force-sensitive individuals used melee weapons, and this historical set them apart from non-Force users, and like many elements of culture, it continues because it is tradition.

Can Non-Force Sensitive Individuals Used the Lightsaber?
The short answer is yes, an non-Force user can and do use Lightsabers in some very rare examples. In the canonized Star Wars films, only two (or three...is Finn a Force Sensitive individual or not?) non-Force Sensitive individuals have wielded a Lightsaber: General Grievous (TROS) and Han Solo (TESB). Only one of these examples, General Grievous, wielded them in combat...against a Jedi Master no less.
Given that the Lightsaber is the weapon-of-choice for Force users, is it possible for non-Force user to wield a Lightsaber and would you want to as a "normal" person? For an non-Force user, the Lightsaber, especially the shortened Shoto variant, could be useful in being a universal opener of locks and sealed doors. So why do so few use the Lightsaber if the Lightsaber is an omni-can opener and one of the most powerful melee weapons in the galaxy? We have to remember that an Lightsaber is one of the most dangerous weapons in the SW universe, and one misstep and you could be shopping for a cybernetic leg or arm.
The Force helps wielders of the energy blade avoid that along with years of training that begins at childhood. Using the Lightsaber in combat would be risky against other non-Force users, and you would be insane to engage a Sith or Jedi warrior in a duel. Also, any Lightsaber in the possession at the time of Empire would be very illegal and since only Force users can construct a Lightsaber, it would have been someone's. In a real-world perspective, the reason for only Force users wielding Lightsaber was because it was the weapon of the Jedi and Sith, and it was banned under the Empire for much of the films, and Lucas wanted the Lightsaber to be the weapon and symbol of the Force users.

The Mechanics of the Lightsaber
There many cases where Force users have assembled Lightsabers out of junk laying around a cargo hold or starship...is it really that simple of a device? Yes and no. The actual mechanics of the Lightsaber are relatively easy to come by in the SW universe, but the two elements that prevent just any asshole from wielding one of these to curve up the Life Day Turkey: the crystal and final assembly. A special crystal is required to focus the energy and all of the pieces, especially aligning the crystal correctly require a Force user for final assembly. The weapon is powered by a dense highly compact diatium power cell that has the power field conductor to channel the energy down to the emitter. This leads to the power vortex ring that allows the massive energy to be utilized for the blade by transforming it into plasma. This plasma is focused through one-to-three crystals, and this determines power output and length. Insulation protects the wielder from the massive power in their hands. The plasma flow is focused and compacted further via field energizers and modulation circuits. Externally, there are several knots to modify the blade and power output, along with the activation button, and some even have a power gauge or warning signs.

What Do the Colors of the Energy Blades Mean?
This is one of those topics in the Star Wars universe that seems to be debated and even the canon is often confused. For much of the early history of Star Wars, there was only blue and red Lightsaber energy blades. Then in 1983, Luke showed off his newly minted green Lightsaber after his original was lost in the Cloud City duel with Vader. This altered the palette for canon Lightsaber colors. Now, it was green, blue, and red. While other colors were seen in comics, it wasn't until the prequel films that we witnessed yellow and purple enter into canonized sources. Part of the real-world reason is that the green color stood out against the background environment on Tatooine, and that Sammy J wanted his Lightsaber blade to be his favorite color. As for the color red chosen for the Sith, it has to do with the color red's association with the darker side of religion, especially Christianity with red being one of the colors of Satan.
So, do these colors mean anything besides choice and crystal type? According to some sources they do. Of course, the Sith are seen using red-hued energy blades, which comes from the synthetic crystals developed by the old Sith Empire thousands of years ago. Much like the use of green and blue in the Jedi Order, red became a symbol of these Force users allegiance to the Dark Side of the Force. This was popularized by Darth Revan and Darth Malax some 4,000 years BBY. In the Jedi Order, the colors are often (not always) associated with their roles in the Order and their vocation and this dates back over an thousand year BBY. Green was the color for the Jedi Consulars, who possess strong Force abilities, but chose to use negotiation and diplomacy to solve issues instead of a Lightsaber slash. The blue is often used by Jedi Guardians (seriously?! More Guardians?! The last thing sci-fi needs is more fucking "Guardians" in the genre. Get a new word, people!) who are devoted to protection and justice, one of the main traditional roles for the Jedi Knights. In The Phantom Menace, we see that Qui-Gon Jinn uses an green-hued Lightsaber and that he was assigned to the Trade Federation/Naboo blockade crisis due to Master Qui-Gon being a Jedi Consular.
While his padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi uses a blue-hued Lightsaber, marking him as a Jedi Guardian. Given Obi-Wan's character development throughout the Prequels, we see that he lives and acts as an Jedi Guardian. His padawan, Anakin, was also an Jedi Guardian until his fall under the shroud of the Dark Side. However, the colors can be personal choice and may or may not have to do with their role in the Jedi Order. What about yellow and purple and do the Light Side of the Force users use red? In the Corellian Trilogy and the Star Wars: Republic comics, several Jedi characters use red-hued Lightsabers. including Leia. Yellow, used by the very cool alien Jedi Master Plo Koon, are the mark of an Jedi Monitors/Rangers, who watch the frontiers of the galaxy for signs of the Dark Side rising through the Sith, Fallen Jedi, or even cults. The purple is more mysterious. Some sources claim that purple-hued Lightsabers could only be wielded by Jedi who had fallen to the Dark Side and been rehabilitated or ones that had to explore the Dark Side for the Jedi Order for some research purposes. Others say that purple was reserved for those Jedi Knights and Masters that had been allowed the rare honor of training in the nearly forbidden Form VII Juyo style and mastered it; thus making the purple Lightsaber a merit badge of sorts. There are other more even rare colors and even black-hued energy blades that are seen in some sources. The reason for black and white being the rarest in the world of Force users is that they are hard to see in a duel.

Different Types of Modern Lightsabers

The "Standard Model"
This is it, the big daddy of the Force users arsenal the standard lightsaber. This mimics the dimensions of most classical Terran combat swords in terms of blade length and hilt. For much of the time that there have been Light Side and Dark Side Force users wielding energy swords, the vast majority fell into the standard sword model. With good reason. The early weapons wielded by Force sensitive individuals were basically standard battle swords, and when it came time to design swords that had blades of directed energy, the basic design of the sword was mimicked. One of the issues or design quarks that most comment on about the standard Lightsaber variant is the weight. Unlike a physical blade sword, the hilt of the Lightsaber is the bulk of the weight, and the energy blade is nearly weightless. This requires time for the user to get used to, and this is why Jedi/Sith train with a specialized variant of the Lightsaber rather than a physical training sword. All manner of hilts are seen in the hands of both Jedi and Sith with styles informing us about the owner.

The Shoto
Since the Jedi and the Star Wars films are based off of Japanese Samurai films, it makes complete sense to see a shortened Lightsaber, called an "shoto" in the hands of Jedi and Sith. The Samurai normally wore two swords as part of their class privilege: the Katana and the Wakizashi. The shorter Wakizashi was used in duels, as a backup sword, for ritual suicide, and in-doors.  Shorter swords were used in combination with longer swords, like the Rapier in European styles. All of this makes for a realistic foundation for the Shoto Lightsaber. While we know that Fallen Master Sora Bulq and Ahsoka Tano used them in the comics and the Clone Wars/Rebels TV series, some believe that Master Yoda's micro-saber was actually an Shoto. Luke Skywalker created an red Shoto Lightsaber in the Marvel Comics to defeat an Lightsaber Whip user. I am hoping we see an Shoto at some point in the new films.

The Crossguard Lightsaber (AKA Forked)
With real swords, nearly all have a guard to protect the user's hands from a sliding strike by their opponent. In the Star Wars universe, the standard model of the Lightsaber does not feature any type of protection for the user. This has led to limbs being cut off, but this was not lost on all Jedi/Sith. We all know about Kylo Ren's crossguard Lightsaber, but the design is seen in Jedi history. During the Clone Wars, Jedi General Robilo Darte uses an crossguard Lightsaber that looked closer to Kurgan's weird broadsword from Highlander rather than Kylo Ren's design, and there are hints of even older crossguard Lightsabers. If these crossguard Lightsabers are more defensive effective, why are they not standard issue and the defeat design? In the ficitional world of Star Wars, the crossguard is created due to Kylo Ren's Lightsaber running hot, and the crossguards are actually exhaust ports. Some of the others crossguards were more purpose built, but for some unknown reason, it never really caught on. Maybe because the crossguard blades would be very dangerous, more so than an standard Lightsaber? In the real-world, Lucas wanted Lightsabers to look a certain way, and that is what he got. Crossguards Lightsabers could have been too much SFX or that they were too connected to Terran medieval history, making them less sci-fi and more historical. Either way, I think we will see Kylo Ren's crossguard again in the next film.

Lightsaber Staff (AKA Double-Bladed Lightsaber AKA Saberstaff)
About four thousand years ago, the double-bladed Lightsaber during the days of the old Sith Empire. One of the iconic early users of the lethal weapon was Sith Master Exar Kun. During his legendary fight with Master Vodo Baas, he showed of his new Lightsaber and killed his former master. Given that this variant was a Sith weapon, few Jedi Saberstaff users existed. Officially, the Jedi Council said that the saberstaff was a weapon of violence and killing while the Jedi Lightsaber was a weapon of defense. Then, that position changed during the war during the Republic and the Sith Empire with Jedi Knight users like Satele Shan. But, it was still a rarely used weapon and by the time Darth Maul appeared outing the Sith to the Jedi Order, the weapon was an relic of a long ago time. During the Clone Wars, Master Pong Krell wielded not one, but two saberstaff in close combat. One of the few Jedi using saberstaff was Jastus Farr during the Jedi Purge. Until the Mouse bought Star Wars lock, stock, and barrel; the history of the double-bladed Lightsaber was much richer...

Youngling "Trainer" Lightsaber
Fans have speculated on when learner Jedis get their first Lightsabers, and the Prequels provided us with the answer in 2002's misguided and terribly named Attack of the Clones. It seems from a very early age, younglings are given either blue or green "trainer" or practice Lightsabers for teaching the foundations of Jedi combat and how to live with the weapon. Despite that these training Lightsabers are lower in power settings than the normal weapons, they can still harm the user and anyone that comes into contact with the energy blade in the form of bruises and burns. Most Jedi Knights and Masters bear a scar or two from those trainer Lightsabers, and commonly compare them.  Fans have also speculated that several younglings and padawans are killed in Lightsaber accidents every year.

The Retro-Saber
The Proto-Saber was the one of the original Lightsabers from thousands of years ago, prior to the Sith perfecting the battery/power cell technology to allow for the end of external power pack wore on the wrist of the user. While it is clear the advantage of not being tied to a power cord during Lightsaber duels, some Jedi have gone back to the ancient Proto-Saber during the Clone Wars. Why? the Retro-Saber, as it is called, boosts the power output of the standard Lightsaber, increasing the offensive abilities of the Lightsaber for a short amount of time. This were not very popular and the Jedi armorers at the temple had to handcraft each one. Some fans have nicknamed the users of the Retro-Saber has "Jedi Hipsters".

The Underwater Lightsaber

Using the Lightsaber underwater is an interesting thought that some fans have been wondering for a long time, and we saw some of the interact being rain and the Lightsaber during Obi-Wan Kenobi's fieldtrip to Kamino in Attack of the Clones. However, we did see an underwater variant to the standard Lightsaber during the Clone Wars animated series in the hands of Jedi Master Kit Fisto. He used an bifurcating cyclical-ignition pulse to allow usage in aquatic environments, like the Battle of Mon Calamari.  I guess this is variant that the Jedi SEAL teams use?

The Jedi Lightsaber vs. the Sith Lightsaber
When Sith and Jedi square off in the SW universe, there is a primary difference in their lightsabers: color. Sith use red and the Jedi mainly use green and blue...but what about design differences? Could you tell a Sith lightsaber from a Jedi one? During the original holy trilogy, the few Lightsabers seen on-screen were very similar in construction, given that two were made by the same character. Luke's ROTJ and Obi-wan's from ANH were styled in a similar manner, with the saucer-shaped emitter. It was later in the Prequels and the Expanded Universe that we began to see a really stylistic difference between the Sith and Jedi Lightsabers.
 For the most part, there is little technical differences separating the operation of an Sith or Jedi Lightsaber. At times, like Kylo Ren, the Sith would use unstable or even cracked crystals to generate "hotter" blades that had more fearsome offensive and defensive capabilities. Given the Jedi Order's monk-like outlook to life and service to the Jedi Order, their Lightsaber hilts tend to be more conservative and traditional, with the bulk of Lightsabers seen being little more than cylinders with various touches to personalize them.
That is not true of the Dark Side of the Force users. The Dark Side of the Force channels in a way that inspires more creativity in terms of Lightsaber design and even allows these Dark Side wielders to embrace older designs; as seen in Count Dooku and Darth Maul.  This not does always hold true of course, Darth Vader's Lightsaber was boring when compared to Kylo Ren's and even Darth Sidious's pocket-saber. They also were willing to alter the traditional standard Lightsaber energy blade with cross guards or even double blades. This makes Sith Lightsabers more iconic and recognizable than the bulk of the Jedi. I've even read that Sith Lightsaber toys and replicas outsell the Jedi.

What Does the Lightsaber Say About the Old Galactic Republic and the Jedi?
According to the line spoken in SW:ANH:"for over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of Peace and Justice in the Old Republic". That relationship between the Old Republic and the Jedi Order has been one debated and speculated by SW fans, but what does the Jedi's use of the Lightsaber say about themselves and the Old Galactic Republic? After all, weapons say a great deal about the warfighters who use them and the governments that buy them. The Colt M4A1 says alot about the US Armed Forces, the AKM says a great deal about the users of it, the SA80 says alot about the British Army, and the FAMAS says alot about the French armed forces...so, what does the Lightsaber say? A great deal. The Old Republic did not possess a proper military most of its history, it has, in the past, raised an military in times of dire military crisis, as we saw with the Clone Army. However, for the bulk of the history of the Old Republic, the Jedi Order was it. They were the peacekeepers, warriors, and the Justiciars of the galaxy. While the vast majority of the hostiles in the Star Wars universe wield blasters and other DEWs, the Jedi reminded steadfast loyal to the Lightsaber. This greatly limits their offensive abilities, especially in times of out-and-out warfare.
While the Jedi might be one of the most deadly interpersonal fighters, they are not soldiers, and nor have the abilities, trainings, or skills to be so. This tells us the outlook of the Old Republic on warfare: they do not want it or prepare for. If the Jedi cannot solve the issue with words, fear, or a slash of their energy blade; the Old Republic is more or less fucked. Of course, for much of the history of the Old Republic, there were few wars, and one of the only ones was the Mandalorian Wars of about 3,000 years prior to the Battle of Yavin.
This allows the Old Republic to settle into a period of lax interest in military matters. By the time of the Sith-backed Clone Wars, the Old Republic was woefully ill-prepared for a full-scale war. After all, a few thousand Jedi cannot win a war with only being armed with swords. There is a reason why the gun overcame the sword by the 17th century here on Earth. Guns are a force multiplier and extend the range in which a soldier can engage an target, but somehow, that concept is lost on the Old Republic and the Jedi.

Could an Lightsaber Really Exist?
"I'm going to have to science the shit out of this!"
Lightsabers exist in a very soft science universe, and the way they are presented and function is contrary to physics. Plasma and laser beams do not function in the way presented on-screen and the lightsaber hilt is far too small to generate power in that range. Recently, Harvard and MIT got two protons to interact like a physical object with mass, while maintaining the properties of light. The problem, the molecules have to be assembled in energy-expensive supercool vacuum. Yeah...not exactly portable, unless you have a fusion reactor in your pants.
Many people think that the 4th state of matter, plasma, could be the answer...but not really. Plasma burns hot, very hot, and you would need to protect yourself from your own plasma blade as well as your opponent's plasma weapon. These are more of plasma torches rather than swords, and there would be no classic sword fighting. The figure is around 20 megawatts, enough power to light 14,000 homes. Plus, the extreme heat would set those robes on fire. Lovely. Lasers are not going to work either. Some people add electromagnetic fields to create part of the Lightsabers, but they still would not behave like the ones on-screen.  

Notable Canon Lightsabers

Darth Sidious's "Pocket-Saber" Red Sith Lightsaber
There had been a debate among fans of the films during the release of the Prequels, if Palpatine/Sidious had a Lightsaber. In the third installment of the Prequels, we found out. When the Jedi, lead by Mace Windu, come to arrest Palpatine, the old Sith Master whips out an compact red Lightsaber and engages the Jedi Knights in close quarters combat. This scene is badly done, and many fans argue against Palpatine using a Lightsaber after his line in ROTJ when he calls the Lightsaber an"Jedi weapon", but there is something interesting in the overall design of Sidious's Sith Lightsaber. Given Sidious skulduggery in playing a senator from Naboo named Palpatine to orchestrate the downfall of the Republic and the Jedi Order, he had to keep a low profile and his Lightsaber reflected that in the overall design. It has been said that his Lightsaber was constructed out of Phrik compound that prevented another Lightsaber from cutting through his hilt.

Darth Maul's Double-Bladed Red Sith Lightsaber
The moment we fans of Star Wars witnessed Darth Maul light his badass Lightsaber at the end of The Phantom Menace, the world of Lightsaber design was altered, and the "staff" Lightsaber or doubled-bladed Lightsaber became part of the landscape of Star Wars. While the Lightsaber hilt itself is quite boring, the presentation of it ranks up there as one of the most iconic moments in the dismal prequel films. With the Martial Arts skill of Ray Parks, Darth Maul and his double Lightsaber took on two Jedi, killing one. From that point on, double-bladed Lightsabers would be seen throughout the SW expanded universe and in the hands of fan worldwide.

Obi-Wan Kenobi's Blue Jedi Lightsaber
Before the Clone Wars, the Rise of the Empire, and the Great Jedi Purge, the Jedi Order was the peacekeepers of the galaxy. One of the last great Jedi to come out of temple was Obi-Wan Kenobi, and his original lightsaber design was something unique. The violent little handle and overall design made this lightsaber a fan favorite ( and mine, too!) since The Phantom Menace in 1999. This Lightsaber also established the tradition that padawan's construct their Lightsaber hilt with some of the design elements of their master's Lightsaber hilt (yes, it was heavily hinted that Luke designed his green ROTJ Lightsaber hilt after Obi-Wan's in ANH). Obi-Wan took some of the basic design elements of Qui-Gon Jinn's lightsaber and forged his own. Obi-Wan Kenobi would lose his original Lightsaber with his duel with Darth Maul, and rebuild another in the same fashion. That 2nd lightsaber was lost when Kenobi was disarmed on Geonosis. When Obi-Wan reached the level of Jedi Master, he would construct a 3rd and final lightsaber that radical different in design than his original hilt. This remains of the most popular Lightsaber hilt designs in all of the Saga.

Kylo Ren's Red Sith Lightsaber
It seems that the Sith/Dark Side Force users are destined to wield uber-cool red Lightsabers, and Kylo Ren only reinforced that trope of Star Wars after the original saga. Much like Darth Maul, Kylo Ren would light his now iconic cross-guard blazing red Lightsaber in the trailer, making the geek/nerd community crap their collective pants. Kylo Ren's longsword Lightsaber is a style forward move away from the more traditional design of Jedi/Sith Lightsaber hilts and energy blades. The cracking effect of the energy blade comes an cracked crystal and it seems that the Lightsaber itself is a little primitive from others we've seen. This could be due to Kylo Ren not being complete in his Force training. It is unknown if the crossguard Lightsaber will return in Star Wars VIII: Matt Strikes Back.

Count Dooku's Red Sith Lightsaber
I have always thought that Count Dooku's character got the shift in the SW prequel films. Not as popular as Darth Maul, and it seems that Dooku is just keeping the bed warm while the Emperor grooms Anakin to be his new second. Of course, given the low quality of the Prequel films, the stories themselves do little to develop Dooku...but he does have a unique lightsaber hilt design that informs us a great deal about Dooku's character. Dooku comes from money, and given his refined nature, his Lightsaber is also refined; embracing a more fencing style rather than more typical Jedi Lightsaber combat. The overall design allows for that and harkens back to older Lightsabers thousands of years ago. We know some of Dooku as a Jedi and some sources show Jedi Dooku with an similar Lightsaber and others do not. Either way very cool design for a badly done character.  

Qui-Gon Jinn's Green Jedi Lightsaber
While many fans have conflicting opinions about the character of Qui-Gon Jinn, there is something quite elegant about his green lightsaber. Unlike the Lightsabers seen in the original trilogy, Qui-Gon's hilt is simple with many smaller power cells making up the handle of the Lightsaber. Qui-Gon would carry this for years in the field and it serve its master until the fateful mission on Naboo. This weapon would engage Darth Maul and kill him in the hands of Obi-Wan. For a brief amount of time, Qui-Gon's former padawan would carry his lightsaber until he could rebuild his hilt after being lost in the battle with Maul. It is unknown what happened to the Lightsaber hilt after that...it is believed to be in the possession of Obi-Wan or placed in the Jedi Achieve/Museum. During the release of Episode One, a toy electronic Qui-Gon lightsaber was made along with Darth Maul's and Obi-Wan's, and Qui-Gon's was the most commonly seen in the stores.

The Grand Inquisitor's Red Sith Lightsaber
While the Jedi were hunted down during the closing days of the Clone Wars with Order 66, some survived and others were born with Force abilities. This is when the Dark Lords of the Sith turned to other Dark Siders to hunt down escaped and new Jedi. These Dark Side Force users were called Inquisitors, and this group weldings an oddly designed Lightsaber. The double-bladed spinning Lightsaber. This design allows the wield to generate a great deal of speed using the middle section to whip the double-edged weapon around. Then it can using motors to spinning the Lightsaber blades around. Star Wars: Rebels uses the effect well and makes the duels exciting and dynamic.

Luke Skywalker's new Jedi Green Lightsaber
In the first two original Star Wars films, all three Lightsabers were similar in color and construction, only Ben Kenobi's briefly seen Lightsaber was stylistically different than both of the Vader/Anakin constructed hilts. In ROTJ, we see Luke's newly minted green Lightsaber that is similar to Ben Kenobi's and is used to duel with Darth Vader one last time. The fate of this Lightsaber is unknown, and it is uncertain if we will see Master Skywalker wield his old green hilt from ROTJ in Episode VIII Matt Strikes Back. The reason for the green energy blade is due to the blue blade washing out during the desert shoot on Jabba's barge.

Ezra's unique Blue Jedi Lightsaber
In the popular Disney Star Wars: Rebels cartoon, Jedi Padawan Ezra constructs an blue Lightsaber that befits the time period in which he learns the ways of the Force: during the apex of the Empire. Much like his Master Kanan, they are forced to hid their lightsabers and Ezra hid his in a Lightsaber/Blaster combination platter. Some believe that Ezra's rather unique Lightsaber was influenced by the lasersword/blaster of Ulysses 31.

The Impact of the Lightsaber
As the old phase goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words", and this picture of President Obama with a toy lightsaber sums up this section of our blogpost perfectly. The Lightsaber from Star Wars is the most widely known weapon of science fiction or possibly even of fiction in general. Boys and girls of all ages, and I do mean ALL ages will build and buy their own vision of the lightsaber, spending thousands of dollars every year on replicas and toys. Then they take these Lightsabers to cons and events. Even the phaser from Star Trek, which nearly 10 years older, cannot claim that honor. The Lightsaber is immediately recognized by the general public as being from Star Wars and even the factions that use them, which is also very uncommon for the general public to know that about an sci-fi weapon. The Lightsaber would pop up in advertisement, knock-off toys, and for an entire generation of kids to swing around flashlights and make noises. That is impact, people.
The Lightsaber also crosses all barriers. From boys to girls, poor, rich, geek, non-geek, American, non-American, young and old...all know the Lightsaber. This wide scale appeal as lead to copycat energy swords being folded into sci-fi works since 1977. Ripoff films like Starcrash, to comedies, like Space Balls! to Japanese anime, like Gundam; all mined the basic concept and imagery of the Lightsaber. This is enduring, especially with new Star Wars films being created. It is not just in sci-fi themed works, but also in general fiction and even fantasy. Another impact was that despite laser-swords and energy-swords existing prior to Star Wars in 1977, it took that film to import the concept to the general public. One of the stranger impacts of the Lightsaber was like Bruce Lee films, Star Wars lead to fans taking fencing and Kendo lessons.  

Where there Laser Swords in Sci-Fi Before Star Wars?
Yes, and it goes back further than even I thought. Throughout human history, countless stories and myths exist about special, mystic, and magic-imbued swords. Before there was popular literature, religious mythology was littered with these mythological swords. From the flaming angel sword of Genesis, to Excalibur, to Nothung from Norse mythology, to Lu Dongbin's Dragonslayer sword of Chinese myth. This idea of magical swords continues into the modern world with various magical swords in Tolkien's writings and the golden sword from The Faerie Queene. From this rich traditiol of mythological swords, science fiction writers drew inspiration and developed their own energy swords. 
One of the titans of science fiction, Isaac Asimov wrote about a "Force-Blade" in 1950's series of juvenile sci-fi novels  Lucky Starr. He also had an earlier Force-Blade in 1951's Foundation with the "Force-Field blade". Some have concluded that this could be the earliest appearance of an energy bladed weapon similar to the Lightsaber in science fiction. However, there is the energy swords from Edmond Hamilton's Kaldar: World of Antares printed in 1933, 1943's Gather Darkness from Fritz Leiber, and the "Rod" from Gordon Dickerson's Wolfling printed in 1969. For more mainstream science fiction books that mention Lightsaber-like weapons is Larry Niven's Ringworld  from 1970 that as an "flashlight saber" that as an infinite beam. Another pre-Star Wars appear of Lightsaber-like weapons is from 1971's The Pastel City by M. John Harrison which features an order of Knights(!) sworn to protect using their energy "baan" swords. There was also an anime laser-knife that pre-dates Star Wars in the 1972's Umi No Triton. After Star Wars, the laser-sword became part of the "Rule of Cool" trope and has reminded in science fiction since, even if the creator is not intended to rip-off Star Wars...it is just that iconic of an weapon and symbol.  

Where Else Have We Seen Energy Swords?

The Sangheili Energy-Sword from the HALO Unverse
Fuck your Lightsaber...Mine's Bigger!
One of the best known energy swords from the realm of video games is the Sangheili Energy Sword from the HALO universe. First appearing in the first HALO game way back in 2001, this iconic energy sword has become a fan favorite in both the campaign modes and the multiplayer. There are few weapons in HALO that can deal as much damage, often taking out enemies with one thrust. Also, unlike many other energy swords, this one is rather unique its look and it is interesting that during HALO 5: Guardians, we see ancient Sangheili swords of a similar design, but cast in metal. This means that this alien race has been creating bladed weapons in the shape of the energy sword since prior they had the technology to create energy blades. This would make it similar if the Japanese created an energy sword that resembled the legendary Katana. The look of the Elite energy sword as altered over the years due to graphic technology, but the basic shape has reminded the same, and this is one of the few examples of an alien energy sword.

The Ka-Kahn Hilt from Starchaser: The Legend of the Orin (1985)
In 1985, a space-fanasty 3D animated film was released, and yes, I saw this in the theaters with my paper 3D glasses. Starchaser: The Legend of the Orin was a complete rip-off of Star Wars, and did it shamelessly. While this film was one animated films to mix computer and traditional animation, and it looked like Heavy Metal, it did not change the fact that it was a bad rip-off of Star Wars. That mining of the classical 1977 film included an energy sword of sorts. In the film, human slave miner Orin uncovers an hilt of the Ka-Kahn, ancient guardians (again?!) that used to protect humanity. While the godly jeweled hilt is pretty normal, the blade is far from it. It seems that the "blade" is formed by unknown powers and it is not always there, even during combat. It seems it cannot be used against its owner. The film never explains it, and the film ends and thankfully so. In April of 2012, the Nostalgia Critic and Bennett the Sage teamed up for a very funny review of Starchaser, and it is worth watching.

The Imperium Power-Sword from the WH40K Universe
In the dark and nasty WH40K universe, the genetic warriors of the God-Emperor, the Space Marines, do engage hostiles in close quarters warfare with an Lightsaber-like weapon: the Power-Sword. This is a hybrid weapon, unlike the Lightsaber, does have a dense metal physical blade which has its offensive capabilities enhanced by the crackling disruptive energy that forms a halo around the blade. This lethal aura allows the Power-Sword to cut through all types of material, and this melee weapon requires much training in its proper usage, making it the mark of more elite Space Marines. Unlike the Lightsaber, if the power goes out on the Power-Sword, than it can still be used as a normal sword. Other races, like the space-elves, the Eldar, use Power-Sword like weapons. This weapon and its holy aura of deadly energy have been powerful symbols of Warhammer 40,000 since the early days, and are featured in all media. 

The Laser Sword from Starcrash (1978)
Starcrash is one of the many rip-offs of the original Star Wars that came out in the late 1970's and early 1980's. In the film, the character of Akton carries an lasersword not unlike the Lightsaber and is gifted with great magical powers. Neither are well explained in this campy film, and since the planned sequel was never filmed, we may never know the answers...tragic. I decided to include this "film" as an example of the rush to lift Star Wars elements, even if they are not well explained or make any sense...Starcrash is both. Watch only when drunk or high or both. It is worth watching just for the Hoff battling a stop-motion robot with Akton's lasersword. Yeah...cheesy goodness.

The Omni-Blade from Mass Effect 3
It is not really as much of an "energy sword" as some other examples on the list, but it is worth discussing. The Omni-tool is an micro-fabrication device as well as a tricorder, and and computer system. These can link into computer systems, manufact needed items, and scan objects. These are critical tools of the Mass Effect universe. In the 3rd game, the omni-tool got a new function: melee blade. Due to the Husk encounters were soldiers are rushed with mass waves of Husks.
These applications of using Omni-tool for melee combat are as old as the device, but due to the husks, the application became more popular. In combat, the micro-fabrication constructs a silicon-carbide diamond-hard blade that is used to cut down their opponent in close combat. In the game, Shepard can stab at close hostiles with her Omni-tool blade, and it kills most in one strike. I relayed on this melee weapon more than my shotgun during close encounters. While it is not an Lightsaber, it is a glowing bladed weapon in a sci-fi universe.

The Schwartz Rings from Spaceballs!
Okay, how could I write a blogpost about Lightsabers without talking about the Schwartz Rings from Space Balls? Impossible! In the very funny comedic retelling of the Star Wars story, Mel Brooks and company lift every element of the 1977 film and play it for laughs. In the 1987 film, Han Solo-copy Lone Starr is one with the Schwartz and the users of the Schwartz uses laserswords generated from rings to duel. Lone Starr and Lord Dark Helmet duel with their Schwartz Rings and it get tangled...I hate when that happens...and the fight breaksdown. While this is a comedy, the Schwartz Rings are not just an directed energy sword, but also a blaster.Either way, Spaceballs! is still more watchable than the majority of The Phantom Menace. 

The Sun-Sword from Thundarr the Barbarian (1980)
In the 1980's, barbarians were popular due to the success of Conan, and oddly, this led to an Saturday morning cartoon called Thundarr the Barbarian from former Hanna-Barbera writers. In the 40th century, the Earth is an post-apocalyptic nightmare where kingdoms controlled mostly by wizards exist in notable locations and Luna is split in half. The main character is Thundarr, a former slave, and now rogue warrior who wonders the wastelands with this "sun-sword". He once was enslaved to an evil wizard called Sabian who forced Thundarr to fight in gladiatorial games. When Princess Ariel freed him, she gave them the Sun-Sword, and now he and Ariel wander with Ookla the Mok. The Sun-Sword is a power directed energy magical sword with the ability to block magic, cut through anything, and only Thundarr can use it and generate its energy blade. This short-lived western animation series married Conan, Mad Max, and Star Wars, and was a series I watched on Saturday morning in the early 1980's...good times.

The Protoss Psionic Blade from the Starcraft Universe
One of the three major races of the Starcraft universe is the Protoss, and one of their melee weapons is the psionic blade. This weapon can only be generated by the psychic abilities of the Protoss and it is channeling effect of high amount of psi-energy via focusers. These wrist-mounted "energy" blades are normal on the powered armor of the more elite warriors of the Protoss. This weapon has become an icon of the Protoss warriors, but the Terran Ghost operators have experimented with developing the technology for themselves. The art for this reminds me of an plasma torch/sword.

Kevin Matchstick's Magic Bat from Mage comics

During the 1980's, independent comic companies competed against the Big Two, and one that I enjoyed was Comico. One of their most celebrated comics of their apex was Matt Wagner's Mage. In the normal-guy-who-loves-Cherry Coke-becomes-superhero tale, the main character (who looks like Wagner) is Kevin Matchstick who comes into a magical glowing baseball bat because...why not? It is discovered by Kevin that the wizard who gives the Magic Bat is actually Merlin, the bat is Excalibur, and he is King Arthur?! The comic, at the time in the mid-1980's, was praised and generated another comic for Comico called Grendal. Mage became one of the beloved classics of 1980's comics and a symbol of the defunct Comico company. Matchstick's role as Avatar (Ultima anyone?) is enhanced by the glowing Excalibur bat that mines the Star Wars Lightsaber and the glowing bat become an iconic image of the series.

Yuri's Plasma Sword from The Dirty Pair
This is yet another example of the Lightsaber influencing weapons throughout all media, and anime was no exception. Many anime works featured energy swords, since the katana and the Samurai are so culturally important to Japanese society. Energy swords are the way to marriage the past with the science fiction. In the humerious anime and manga series, our brave mercenaries work for "other government agency" known as 3WA that helps out the UG. Kei and Yuri are "trouble consultants" for 3WA, and Yuri is seen wielding an plasma sword that looks very much like the Star Wars weapon. This makes sense since Dirty Pair came out in 1980.

Psylocke's telekinetic Katana from the X-Men Universe
One of the characters that remember from my days of reading my brother's X-Men comics was the very hot Psylocke and her ability to generate telekinetic glowing melee weapons like katana and/or a wrist-mounted knife. The telekinetic katana is composed of pure and raw purplish psionic energy. Depending on the energy level of the telekinetic katana, it can either disrupted the nervous system of the victim or at its highest focus level, cut through anything and anyone. This energy blade like weapon can also generate light in darkness and, at times, generate two katanas. In some of the art for the sexy Psylocke, the telekinetic katana appears to be a real sword and the psionic energy only enhances the blade. However, in other art, the weapon is completely that psionic purple color with no real elements to it. Similar to the telekinetic sword is the telekinetic knife that she uses to stab alot of people in the comics in the head, including Wolverine, with some sweet badass art to go along with it

The Energy Sword from Run Saber (1993)
In 1993, Atlus released an side-scroller on the SNES called Run Saber that featured the cybernetic heroes using energy swords in a world gone mad, and only the two warriors of Project SABER are the only hope left. There really is not much to say about the actual energy swords, they are just most swords seen in other side-scrollers, but the noise of the weapon is extra annoying. This seems like a lost classic of the SNES era.

The Photon-Cutlass/Laser-Rapiers'Laser Cutlass from the She-Ra: Princess of Power Universe
In the...I cannot believe I am typing this...She-Ra universe, there are several secondary characters that wield laser-swords of various designs like Sea-Hawk and his father, the Falcon, who are both pirates, and how can you have pirates without swords? Much like the fusion that is the rest of the Masters of the Universe setting, Sea Hawk and Falcon are using directed energy melee weapons as a departure from the normal bladed weapons, giving it a sci-fi edge in a fantasy world 
The Raypier Energy Sword from Ulysses 31

For those that remember this oddball animated French-Japanese television series from 1981, it was not like any anime or western animation work at the time. In Ulysses 31, the the tale of Ulysses and his brave crew is reworked in an science fiction theme, and instead of the crew being lost in the Aegean sea, the crew of the Odyssey is lost in an unknown region of space while the gods argue and plot. In the series, the leader Ulysses wield an energy/blaster combination weapon called the "Raypier". This weapon looks very similar to Ezra's lightsaber in Rebels. This series originally aired in 1981-1982 and was mostly seen here in the states as an OVA instead of an series. I know I watched the film version several times during the mid-80's. The international producers of Ulysses 31 were actually sued by LucasFilm for copyright infringement. Not for the Lightsaber rip-off laser/blaster swords, but the music. Elements of the John Williams themes were reused in Ulysses 31. Maybe one day, we will see a remake.

The Energy Swords of the Neutron Knights from Dr. Who Marvel Comics #14
In the Marvel Comics reprint of the British classic Doctor Who universe comics, the Tom Baker-era Doctor is drawn to a distant time in Terran history by an powerful wizard. In #14 of the series, and the last appearance of the 4th Doctor in the Marvel series, the Doctor and the Knights of Earth face off against the marauding Neutron Knights. In the hands of merciless alien or mutant warriors is a fearsome flaming energy sword of great power that is able to cut through the castle gates. These energy swords are hooked up to external power source, and are able to break normal swords in duels. The Neutron Knights are able to overcome the defenders as Merlin activities a nuclear fusion reactor. In the last minutes, King Arthur and Merlin escape in the TARDIS as one of Arthur's knights delays the leader of the mutants with his own life. His sword is broken by the energy sword. The TARDIS then journeys to prehistoric Britain, and King Arthur and Merlin set about establishing the legend. This is one of my favorite Marvel Doctor Who comics, and I bought these back in the 1980's as I was watching classic Who on OETA PBS.

The Bong-Sabers from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back!
In the most over-the-top Clerks universe film, Jay and Silent Bob go to Hollywood to stop the film adaption of their Bluntman and Chronic comic book being made into a shitty film. As they journey to Hollywood to stop the film, they encounter many strangle characters and events. In the final act of the film, Jay and Silent Bob use the movie-prop weapons, the Bong-Saber, to battle Cocknocker (Mark Hamil). There is no way I could not talk about this rip-off to the Star Wars universe since I am such a fan of the films starring Jay and Silent Bob...Clerks 2 scarred me for life.


Skallagrim's video on the reality of the Lightsaber

Skallagrim's video on Kylo Ren's Lightsaber

History of the Lightsaber

Part One

Part Two

ESPN Lightsaber Special

Next Time on FWS...
The oldest media that military science fiction has occupied is the printed word that was established by HG Wells' War of the Worlds in 1898 and its unofficial sequel Edison's Conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Serviss. However, it is would take until 1974 until the best military science fiction was published. That book is Joe Haldeman's The Forever War and it is the Literary Masterwork of Military Science Fiction! In the next blogpost, FWS will be exploring and explaining why this book is the literature masterwork of the genre. If you would like to add your reason why you think The Forever War is the best MSF novel, please add to the comment section of this blogpost, and I will add it. Please include your name if you want to be credited!


  1. Nice post William!
    I would love to see the force sensitive Mandalorians, they are like knights, they have got armors, and they are elite, but they have got no swords! Why? That would look so nice...
    About the real life lightsaber, the Orbital Vector website mentions "particle fountain sword", and that's interesting, but I doubt we can make it like In Star Wars...
    Also, are you planning modular weapons blogpost in the near future?

  2. Yep, modular firearms is on the list for an FWS Armory blogpost soon. I should have talked about particle fountain sword theory!
    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. The first Star Wars space opera-ed a lot of US Civil War stuff: Dark 'vader from the North leading whitejackets against Rebels, so forth. Lots of US Civil War officers carried light sabers as a tacticool feature. Light French sabers. Light Hungarian sabers. Light dress sabers. Light West Point sabers.

  4. OT, heads up for you lads, Sam Raimi is has just been announced as the director of a movie called "world war 3" based on George Friedman’s book “The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century.”


  5. Ahsoka currently wields "White" sabers, in the Rebels series. I caught that you mentioned them. http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Ahsoka_Tano's_white_lightsabers

  6. Actually, given the million joules energy estimate for the lightsaber i suggest that it is in fact a spacetime field generator reflecting the spacetime field of the target into itself. Your own energy is used against you.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Isn't there a grammatical error here, or a word missing? Shouldn't there be a "commo not" where I placed the *.

    "...unlike many of the weapons of science fiction that FWS has discussed previously, the Star Wars Lightsaber is an energy sword * some sort of blaster or caseless rifle."

  9. Yes, I missed the word NOT in the sentence. For some reason, I miss that very important word...thanks for the heads up!

  10. 3rd century "BCE". ohh lost a few point there sir.

  11. No. sorry but I am going to ramble on.
    I was at school when they started pushing that BCE/CE nonsense. To me it is the worst kind of white guilt.
    “We are so sorry that we forced our system of measuring time on you poor unfortunate peoples. So now we are just going to change the name and now everything will be better”. We wont change the basis of the “zero date” or respect you calendars, but
    Most other countries (Japan, China, Israel etc.) when they use pre/post systems, they use BC/AD.
    However I do respect you right to disagree.
    Great site, glad I found it.

    1. I whole-heartedly agree. Also, note that the example countries you gave have a minority Christian population yet still use BC/AD. Then you have America, with a primarily Christian population being forced by the government to drop BC/AD. Using "freedom of religion" as the excuse, no less. Salt on the wound.

  12. About guns being force multipliers. Don't forget that the Old Republic Jedi (pre-Ruusan Reformation) and Sith were at the "ripping suns in half and destroying planets" level of power and "godlike" skill with a lightsaber. So, given that, what they could not deflect with a lightsaber they could stop with the Force. Which means force multipliers almost (but not quite) didn't matter against them. They were simply too powerful.

    Post-Ruusan Reformation era Jedi, however, had lost nearly all of their power, skill, and techniques in both the Force and lightsaber combat and construction thanks to Jedi Lord Hoth the Moron-to-End-All-Morons. Because complete disarmament and stripping the Jedi of their armor and banning most of their combat knowledge and training regimes to ensure "peace" is such a great idea after barely winning a galactic-scale, nearly apocalyptic war. That couldn't POSSIBLY be a bad idea (spoiler: it was).

    The result was that Post-Ruusan Jedi were woefully inadequate on the battlefield and only good for...well...peacekeeping. Even then, only peacekeeping missions that did not involve open warfare unless they were sent in spec-ops style for precision action. The Clone Wars forced them onto the battlefield where they no longer had the skill and knowledge to survive, let alone thrive like their ancient brethren did.