The Force

Star Wars Just Copied Another Brilliant Sci-Fi Concept From Dune

The Bene Gesserit are using the Force.

Originally Published: 
The Nightsisters in 'Ahsoka.'
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A corrupt Empire is in cahoots with a sect of witches, and those witches are using future predictions to help manipulate events in their favor. In Episode 6 of Ahsoka, “Far, Far Away,” this set-up describes the relationship between the Dathomiri Nightsisters and Grand Admiral Thrawn, but it could just as easily describe Dune. Without a doubt, the revelation of Thrawn and the Nightsisters in Ahsoka is one of the slickest, most compelling plot pivots in the series so far. And yet, like so many cool things about Star Wars, you can’t help but wonder — isn’t this just a low-key Dune knock-off? Spoilers ahead.

Obviously, the Nightsisters are not a new concept in Star Wars canon. The original “expanded universe” version of the Nightsisters comes from the novel The Courtship of Princess Leia, and, of course, extensively, in The Clone Wars. So, within Star Wars, one could argue that the Nightsisters have been coded as the Bene Gesserit at least since The Clone Wars. But, this is the first time we’ve seen Nightsisters in live-action —and the first time we’ve heard about “The Thread of Destiny.”

Nightsisters equal Bene Gesserit?

The Bene Gesserit are deeper sci-fi magic from before the dawn of Star Wars.

Warner Bros

The novelty of seeing the Nightsisters in the flesh, as well as Thrawn referring to “The Great Mother,” will certainly remind Dune fans of Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam from the first two books, and most of the film adaptations. The relationship that the Bene Gesserit have to the larger Imperium of Dune also seems very similar to Thrawn and the Nighsisters, at least logistically.

But, Ahsoka makes the thematic aesthetics of the Nightsisters even more Dune-ish in Episode 6, specifically because the Nightsisters are using prescient vision in the form of “The Thread of Destiny.” Although the Bene Gesserit has abilities beyond prescience, the idea of following threads of destiny is almost the entire point of the Bene Gesserit in Dune. In fact, Ahsoka has now revealed that Nightsisters’ knowledge of other galaxies and worlds predates Jedi history, which is reminiscent of the Missionaria Protectiva of the Bene Gesserit; the idea that the Sisterhood would seed various worlds with religious myths and legends, in order to gain political power later.

In “Far, Far Way,” the discussion of what is a myth, and what was simply history for the Nightsisters feels perfectly aligned with the way the Bene Gesserit views history, too. As the Reverend Mother (Charlotte Rampling) says in Dune: Part I, “Our plans are measured in centuries.” The Nightsisters in Ahsoka don’t say this kind of thing outright, but really get the sense that they could.

Star Wars has relied on Dune forever

Does Star Wars come from Dune?

Berkeley Books

The idea that there are Dune references in Star Wars is not remotely new. Back in 1977, Dune author Frank Herbert actually considered suing George Lucas because so much of the imagery and aesthetics of Star Wars seemed taken outright from his far-future world of Arrakis. From Jedi mind tricks to people smuggling a substance called “the spice,” to powerful twins who are more powerful than their father, and on and on and on, when you start digging into the various ways Star Wars needed Dune to exist, you may go nuts. (Or, at the very least, write an entire chapter in a book about this exact subject.)

What makes the Bene Gesserit-ness of the Nightsisters in Ahsoka so jarring right now is simply the timing. Dune: Part Two has been delayed until March 2024, so, seeing ersatz Bene Gesserit is a bit odd. In fairness, Foundation just gave us a faux version of the Spacing Guild from Dune, so, these kinds of homages are not really unheard of. Hell, in 2020, even Picard Season 1 borrowed from the backstory of Dune’s Butlerian Jihad to redefine the culture of the Romulans.

No, not every great sci-fi idea ever came from Dune. But, in a time when the next Dune movie is the most anticipated science fiction movie of the moment, it’s perhaps more noticeable when big parts of the sandworm-y saga are so openly referenced. Star Wars never really ripped off Dune, partly because George Lucas was always trying to tell tonally very different stories than Frank Herbert. Science fiction nomenclature, including words like “hyperspace,” has long been up for grabs. If you take a long view of science fiction, you might believe that nobody really owns any of these ideas, and every single thing is just a remix of something else.

And yet, Dune was a groundbreaking novel that changed the course of science fiction literature, and Star Wars is the biggest sci-fi franchise of all time, just in terms of sheer popularity. The dark magick of the Nightsisters is very cool, and it’s great that it’s powering Ahsoka. But, that doesn’t change the fact that the deeper magic almost certainly comes from their ancestors, the Bene Gesserit.

Ahsoka debuts new episodes Tuesdays on Disney+.

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